NIRA fails to commence mass enrolment of 17m people over funds

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Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The National Information Registration Authority (NIRA), led by Executive Director Rosemary Kisembo, has faced setbacks in initiating the mass enrolment of 17.2 million Ugandans due to financial constraints.

Kisembo disclosed this information during her appearance before the Parliament’s Defence and Internal Affairs Committee. She also revealed that NIRA is confronting the challenge of renewing National Identification Cards for 15.8 million individuals set to expire in August 2024.

The absence of an approved budget for 2022, valued at 666.8 billion Shillings, designated for the installation of the National Security Information System (NSIS), has led to the suspension of the mass enrolment project.

Kisembo elaborated, “The project was expected to start in June 2023 as a pilot and full roll-out in August 2023, with procurement and recruitment contracts for registration assistants. However, this has not been done due to absence of funds or a letter of commitment of funds.” 

In August 2023, the Electoral Commission (EC) issued an electoral roadmap that stipulates NIRA’s responsibility to provide a register of citizens for the compilation, maintenance, revision, and update of the voter’s register by September 2024.

Chairperson of the Defence Committee, Wilson Kajwengye, pressed NIRA to clarify their readiness to supply the Electoral Commission (EC) with a reliable data source in preparation for the 2026 general elections. He inquired, “You have mentioned that you were supposed to have commenced two months ago but haven’t. Does this mean you are unprepared for mass enrollment ahead of the elections?.”

Kisembo reassured the committee that NIRA had experienced delays but expressed optimism regarding the project’s progress. She stated, “Certain aspects of the project, such as capacity building, have already begun. Once funding is secured, critical aspects like hardware procurement and integration will proceed.”

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Kisembo also mentioned that NIRA had engaged with the Ministry of Finance regarding project funding. The Ministry is considering seeking cabinet approval for supplementary funding amounting to 370 billion Shillings through domestic borrowing.

MP Naboth Namanya of Rubabo County raised concerns about the timely delivery of requirements from NIRA to the Electoral Commission. He asked, “If the government provides funds next year, won’t it be too late for you to undertake recruitment and procurement activities due to time constraints?”

Bufumbira County South MP, Alex Niyonsaba, urged NIRA to establish a deadline by which, in the continued absence of funds, they would raise concerns about project delivery. He emphasized that the government should be aware that the blame should not fall on NIRA if funds are not provided.

In response, Kisembo informed the MPs that NIRA would wait until January 31, 2024, before raising a red flag for project funding if money for activities has not been received by then. She added that the acquisition of certain hardware components necessary for mass enrolment would become extremely challenging if funds remain unavailable.