By Insight Post Uganda
The National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA) is facing a significant setback in its mission to enrol a staggering 17.2 million individuals.
This setback has been attributed to funding gaps, a revelation made by the Authority’s Executive Director, Rosemary Kisembo.
Addressing the Committee of Defence and Internal Affairs in a meeting held on October 25, 2023, Kisembo highlighted the financial challenges that have hindered the mass enrollment process.
NIRA also faces the impending renewal of national identification cards for approximately 15.8 million people, as these cards are set to expire in August 2024.
One of the critical issues hampering progress is the absence of an approved budget, worth Shs666.85 billion, allocated for the installation of the National Security Information System (NSIS).
This absence of funds has resulted in the delay of the mass enrollment project, which was initially slated to begin as a pilot in June 2023, followed by a full roll-out in August 2023.
Critical steps, such as procuring necessary equipment and recruitment contracts for registration assistants, have not been initiated due to financial constraints.
The timing of this financial challenge is particularly concerning as, in August 2023, the Electoral Commission released an electoral road map.
This road map demands that NIRA submit the register of citizens by September 2024, enabling the Commission to compile, maintain, revise, and update the voter’s register in preparation for the 2026 general elections.
Committee Chairperson, Wilson Kajwengye, expressed his concerns regarding NIRA’s readiness to provide the Electoral Commission with credible data for the forthcoming elections.
Kajwengye questioned the delay in the mass enrollment project and asked whether NIRA was prepared to fulfil its responsibilities ahead of the elections.
Kisembo assured the committee that, while there have been delays, progress on the project is being made. As soon as funding is secured, critical aspects, including the procurement of hardware and integration, will be initiated.
NIRA has also engaged the Ministry of Finance regarding the project’s funding, and there is a consideration to seek cabinet approval for supplementary funding of Shs370 billion under domestic borrowing.
The timeline for action is critical, and concerns about timeliness were raised by Naboth Namanya, the Rubabo County MP. He inquired whether there might be an issue with project delivery if funds are provided too late, considering the time required for recruitment and procurement.
Alex Niyonsaba, the Bufumbira County South MP, recommended that NIRA establish a specific deadline by which, in the continued absence of funds, they would report project delivery concerns. This would provide transparency and accountability in the process.
Kisembo responded by stating that NIRA would wait until January 31, 2024, before raising a red flag regarding project funding.
She emphasised that, without funds by that date, acquiring the necessary hardware for mass enrollment would become nearly impossible, necessitating the government to consider alternative plans.
however, the implications of failing to enrol 17 million people are profound. Beyond the immediate delay in capturing essential data for the upcoming elections, it jeopardises the integrity of the identification system and its role in providing critical services to the population.
In addition, the ripple effect of delayed funding impacts NIRA’s ability to meet its obligations, and ultimately, it is the citizens who bear the brunt of these delays.
However, swift action is imperative to ensure the successful execution of this crucial task and to maintain the efficiency and credibility of NIRA’s services.