NIRA extends date for mass enrollment, renewal of national ID again

NIRA Postponement of Mass National ID Enrollment: A Sign of Deep-Seated Inefficiency?
Rosemary Kisembo, the Executive Director of NIRA.

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) has notified Members of Parliament that the mass enrollment and renewal of National Identity Cards (IDs) is scheduled to occur between the end of July and early August this year. This update comes after NIRA missed its initial deadline of June 2024.

To facilitate the ID production process, NIRA will receive 280 billion shillings for the purchase of new machines. These details were shared by NIRA officials during their meeting with the Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises, where they addressed issues highlighted in the Auditor General’s report for the financial year 2022/2023.

Originally, NIRA had planned to begin the mass enrollment and renewal of National ID cards in June, but this did not happen as scheduled.

During their meeting with Members of Parliament from the Commissions, Statutory Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE) committee, chaired by Medard Ssegona (Busiro East, NUP), NIRA officials, led by Executive Director Rosemary Kisembo, provided revised timelines for the mass enrolment. They explained that the 280 billion shillings will be used to replace equipment acquired ten years ago, which has been causing delays in ID production.

The government plans to incorporate iris biometrics as an advanced security feature in National Identity Cards (NIDs). This information was revealed by Rosemary Kisembo on Monday, July 1, 2024.

According to Kisembo, the measure is meant to cater to persons unable to provide the required fingerprints due to a variety of reasons, including birth defects, wounds, injuries, scars, disfigurements, or other similar conditions.

Mass enrollment, renewal for national IDs to be held at Parish level
NIRA officials capturing data.

“For destroyed fingerprints, we shall use your face and we are adding another biometric which is the iris. There was a question about gate technology. It is true gate recognition is one of the features that can be used in terms of biometrics. I will give you an example of gate technology; there is retina and spam. Some of them the cost of their technology far surpasses what we can afford,” she explained.

Having been allocated shillings 208 billion last year for a new system, Kisembo assured that IDs would be issued more quickly.

“This year, we shall get new equipment and hopefully that story will change to two to three days. The people to whom we are compared use NIRA’s data. NIRA’s register is 27 million people. I would put anyone in this country to give me biometrics with 27 million people. Most people have 500,000, two to three million people,” she argued.  

This initiative precedes a mass registration campaign to enroll approximately 18.1 million unregistered citizens, primarily children under seventeen, into NIRA’s database. Despite initial funding delays, Kisembo expressed optimism about starting the process by July or August.

“We were supposed to begin the enrolment process on June 1. We hope to start by the beginning of July or August. We had several delays. One of them was money, they have been overcome and we are in the final stages of beginning the process,” Kisembo added. 

Also Read: NIRA Postponement of Mass National ID Enrollment: A Sign of Deep-Seated Inefficiency?

At present, NIRA has data for 27 million Ugandans and aims to increase this number with the forthcoming mass registration. The new equipment and features are expected to improve the efficiency of the process and resolve past issues.

MPs’ Concerns

Earlier, Allan Mayanja Sebunya (Nakaseke Central, NUP), the vice chairperson of COSASE, expressed concerns about the significant number of citizens with damaged fingerprints. He explained that this issue has hindered those affected from accessing social services that require a national ID.

“There are so many Ugandans, specifically for those ladies who are working in saloons, then gentlemen who are in construction. That cement is destroying their fingerprints and those people cannot access national IDs. Madam ED how are you trying to help these people because I have so many in Nakaseke,” Mayanja posed.

Chipping in, his senior Ssegona admitted that his thumbprint was rejected sometime back.

NIRA’s new home

Furthermore, Kisembo emphasized the necessity of a permanent headquarters for NIRA, noting that their current location at Kololo Independence Grounds is frequently disrupted by official events.

“That secret lies with this house. We have applied for the last four years for a NIRA home and it is an unfunded priority in each of those years,” she pointed out.

“Headquarters of NIRA are at Kololo and Kololo Independence Grounds. But the grounds are owned by the Ministry of Defence, we are the tenants,” Kisembo further revealed.