The newly appointed board chairperson of the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA), James Biribonwa has tasked the authority management to explain the detailed process of replacing a national ID and why it takes so long.
Biribonwa, who was presiding at the inaugural NIRA governing board meeting at the Kololo based-authority offices said the detailed report must be produced at the board’s next meeting. The board held its inaugural meeting last week on Thursday.
“Government is paying money on a decentralized system for the organisation. We have to know what happens in the districts. Why can’t some of these services be executed in the districts? Why do you have to bring the whole Uganda here (in Kololo) and expose our weaknesses?” said Biribonwa. He questioned why all services are being offered at the Kololo-based NIRA headquarters.
Adding “I want to give an assignment to management to tell us, how long does it take to replace a lost card? And you can benchmark with the driving permit people, the passport people and at our next meeting, you must deliver to us that time. If a lost driving permit can take a week or less to replace, why should a national ID take six months or a year?.”
The former commissioner of the Electoral Commission was appointed by the minister and later approved by Cabinet early this year to head the NIRA board. He will be deputized by Ruth Nvumetta Kavuma, a representative from the members of the public on the board.
Judy Obitre-Gama, the NIRA executive director says they have noted the concerns of the stakeholders, citing they will present them to the board at its next sitting. Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi, the head of the Electoral Commission says NIRA plays a very crucial role in as far as the work of EC is concerned.
Section 65(2) of the Registration of Persons Act 2015, provides for the Electoral Commission to access the data/information from NIRA for purposes of updating the national voters’ register.
The EC boss argues that since one of the requirements for one to be a voter, one must be a citizen, and that citizenship is verified by NIRA, who have the structures for that purpose.
“In the fulfilment of our mandate, to compile and maintain the voters register, we go to the NIRA data to determine who is a citizen and since the biodata of that particular person will also be with NIRA, we determine who is a citizen and who is 18 years and above,” said Byabakama.
Adding that; “Then we import that data into our system to be in position to access this. This means that NIRA must be in top-notch operational or functional capacity to expedite the process of registration of citizens.”
The law of registration of persons provides that the national identity card shall be required for the holder to access certain services offered by the state. However, due to challenges faced by NIRA, the law has not been strictly followed.
Byabakama says the new NIRA board on which he is a member will go a long way in ensuring citizens are given services as fast as possible in order not to be disadvantaged.
Biribonwa has also directed the NIRA management to show clearly where the authority stands in regards to the preparation of the data, required by the Electoral Commission for the 2021 presidential and parliamentary polls.
“I direct management that at our next meeting, we would want management to give a clear direction of where we are in terms of the EC road map so that we don’t begin a blame game in the election time. We want you [management] to assure us that we are ahead of the Electoral Commission’s roadmap and we will not have problems,” Biribonwa directs.