By Flavia Nassaka
Controversy on whether data can be used for voters’ register
The National Security Information System (NSIS) project says it is finally ready to issue National Identity Cards to one million Ugandans of those who registered in the first phase. Up to 14, 800,000 Ugandans registered in the first phase of registration carried out at parish level. Under the new schedule starting Dec.3, cards will be issued at parishes in Kampala. A gradual rollout to the rest of the country will follow over the next nine months
The release of the first batch of IDs for those who successfully registered at the 96 parishes in Kampala ends months of anticipation and speculation after NSIS failed to meet the previous dates. The cards were supposed to have been issued in September.
Chris Kantiti, the project’s ICT manager, says completing the various processes involved delayed the ID issuance.
“After verification, the documents are sent to the quality assurance department for approval from where they are sent to production. All this cannot be done in one day,” he explains.
“We didn’t want to skip any step or to have IDs meant for Kotido ending up in Rukungiri,” says Pamela Ankuda, the NSIS spokesperson.
The issuing of IDs appears to be designed to be an East African Community (EAC) deadline of December for all member countries to have the national ID as a travel document used across the region.
Ankunda says NSIS has procured more efficient machines that can produce 80,000 documents per day to complement the old ones that can only produce 1000 daily and expect to have produced 3.2m cards by end of December.
The NSIS project chairman, Abdul Nsubuga, says they did not want to rush into processing documents that would be easily duplicated. But his argument that the document and data will be used for many other government projects, including the immigration department and elections, has raised concern.
The validity of the data was put into question when, on Nov. 28, a file containing bio data of more than 200 applicants was found misplaced and abandoned at the Masaka district headquarters main hall.
The discovery of the file containing enrollment `Form B’ meant to be retained by the government for future reference has sparked questions about the circumstances under which it dropped in the hall.
But the incident has led Linos Ngompek, the Masaka Resident District Commissioner who coordinated the exercise, Tolbert Musinguzi, the Masaka Returning Officer, officials at the Kololo-based NSIS headquarters, and MPs to cast doubt on the NSIS data.
The MPs says the NSIS data should not be used as the raw data for compiling the voters’ register of the 2016 national elections.
While appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Defense and Internal Affairs in mid-November, EC chairman Badru Kiggundu proposed using NSIS data because, similar to the voters’ register, it provides information from Ugandans who will be 18 and above by 2016.
But the MPs say clause 40(2) of the Registration of Persons Bill under review in parliament which legalises use of this data in compiling the national voters’ register violates the constitution that provides for the Electoral Commission (EC) independently collecting data to be used in elections.
Kiggundu disagrees. He says no rule will be violated because the constitution does not restrict the source of information from which to compile the register. He said this will save them the trouble of generating data.
Workers’ MP Sam Lyomoki says the integrity of the NSIS information should be questioned because it was compiled by security agencies. He said that put the data at risk of manipulation.
Celestin Mugisha, an official from Citizens Watch-IT (CEW-IT), a consortium of CSOs that monitor government programs, says the NSIS data was not collected in the right way. He says enrollment was marred by irregularities. He says, according to guidelines, registration was supposed to be approved by a parish verification committee comprising of a parish chief, a parish internal security officer, a local leader and an elder, which was not done.
As of Nov. 30, up to 15,576,000 citizens had been registered of the targeted 18 million. That represents 86.5% registration and leaves an estimated outstanding eligible population of 2,424,000.
Over 776,000 applicants have been registered at the sub county under continuous Registeration programme that is scheduled to end on February 27, 2015 to allow time for compilation of the National Voters’ Register.