BY PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA, Uganda |SHIFTMEDIA| The top brass at the National Identification & Registration Authority (NIRA) have done their bit to calm worries about the rampant corruption and their under-fire operations at the Kololo based facility, but new revelations show that the woes have led to the intervention of the Head of State.
Highly placed State House Sources revealed to Shiftmedia News that President Museveni has ‘heard enough of the saga’ and ordered the axing of six top officials. The six according to our source include Head of Human Resource Sussie Mukiibi, and the Manager Registration and Field Support who were suspended indefinitely as investigations commence. The other (4) were just told to go home and wait to be called.
“The top two have been given indefinite suspension, but these other four were given an open suspension and not told when they would be recalled, so it is as good as being dismissed,” said our source at NIRA.
The mood at NIRA headquarters was so jolly as most staff seemed in a celebration mood. “We have suffered under these guys for long, their sacking was long overdue,” said a NIRA staff who declined not to be named for fear of being reprimanded.
The suspension of the NIRA top brass doesn’t come as a surprise following a series of reports regarding corruption related to misappropriation of funds, abuse of office, fraud, and issuing of National Identity Cards to foreigners among others.
While officiating the swearing-in of the new NIRA Board of Directors early this year Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo implored the new Board members to serve diligently but warned them against complacency.
Just like Owinyi Dollo warned regarding long queues and delayed issuance and replacement of lost or damaged National IDs, the practice has continued to hurt many Ugandans forcing President Museveni to take action.
The new board is chaired by Joseph Biribonwa (Below) and deputized by Ms. Ruth Nvumetta Kavuma. The other members include; Dr. Betty Kivumbi Nannyonga, Maj. Gen. Apollo Kasita; Commissioner of DCIC, Bemanya Twebaze; former CEO of URSB, Dr. Paul Kintu, Dr. Chris Ndatira Mukiza; Executive Director of the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, and Justice Simon Byabakama (Electoral Commission Boss).
The woes at NIRA date way back in 2015 when it was commissioned. Headed by the former Executive Director Obitre Gama. President Museveni stopped the renewal of Gama’s contract that expired on July 15, 2020. In a letter to Internal Affairs Minister, Gen. Jeje Odong whose ministry NIRA falls, President Museveni directed that a new executive director with legal and information technology background be identified to head the Authority.
“I have been informed that the contract of the current executive director is due to expire. Given the problems faced by NIRA especially relating to the issuance of national identity cards, there is a need to identify a new executive director preferably with a legal or Information Technology background. I am, therefore directing you to work with the Board of Directors of NIRA and identify a suitable candidate. Consult me, before a final decision is reached on the matter,” Museveni wrote to Gen Jeje Odong then. Subsequently, Brig Stephen Kwiringira was named as Ag Executive Director.
Gama’s reign at the Authority was bogged by delayed issuance and replacement of identity cards.
In 2018, the Auditor General said NIRA had failed to account for huge sums of money, which had been channeled to individual accounts.
NIRA was also accused of flouting procurement procedures during the exercise that was carried out in primary and secondary schools across the country during the national ID student’s enrollment exercise.
NIRA’s mandate as established by the Registration of Persons Act 2015 includes the creation, management, maintenance and operation of the National Identification Register; the registration of all citizens of Uganda; the registration of non-citizens of Uganda who are lawful residents in Uganda; the registration of births and deaths.
State House sources said though Museveni appointed a new board for NIRA to help revamp the Authority, he was still dissatisfied.
A NIRA board member revealed to us that the fountain of honor was indeed not amused by the reports of corruption rampant at NIRA. “As a Board, we had no choice but to send them away as investigations commence,” said the Board Member.
Background to the NIRA Woes
Apart from the delayed issuance and replacement of National IDs, the suspended senior staff are accused of abuse of office, fraud, and amassing of untold wealth by reportedly issuing of IDs to foreigners at exorbitant fees and deduction of staff salaries since 2015. Some NIRA staff have been named in duplication of National IDs that have been detected by police in fraudulent land transactions across the country.
A senior NIRA staff revealed how they have been earning peanuts despite being confirmed. “I was among the team that joined in 2015. We were confirmed but despite that, we have been earning Ugx900,000 (meant for contract staff). Instead of the mandated Ugx2.7m,” said the staff.
In simple mathematics, these NIRA top brass were chewing Ugx 1.8m per staff per month. We tried to calculate how much the over 200 NIRA staff lost in a period of 4 years (2015-2019) We realized that each staff lost Ugx21.6m per year totaling to Ugx86.4m over the 4 year period. Mark you these staff only began earning full salaries in September 2019. That means the top officials who we have established are under probe will have to explain the whereabouts of Ugx17.28 billion.
The State House deployed the Anti-Corruption team is also investigating the whereabouts of the gratuity money for the 200 staff over the 4 year period. As per the staff employment contracts that we have seen, each staff was entitled to a gratuity of 25% of the monthly salary that is payable at the end of every year. 25% of a monthly salary of Ugx2.7m is Ugx675, 000 tallying it to Ugx8.1m annually and Ugx32.4m for 4 year period. In short, these officials will also explain where the gratuity monies of 200 staff totaling to Ugx 6.48 billion.
“These officers have been driving very posh cars as we suffered. One suspended staff over shs3 billion was got in her personal account,” said a disgruntled staff. But sure with Ugx 23.76 billion at your disposal why not drive such posh cars. According to sources privy to investigations, one of the senior managers had monthly monies channeled to an account of one of the travel firms.
Internal Affairs Minister Gen. Jeje Odong has always urged NIRA to raise public confidence in the way they serve the public. Odong has in recent remarks hinted that corruption is the reason Ugandans have to wait for 6-12 months to get their IDs while others get theirs in just a week or less. As we publish this, scores of plain-clothed Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) personnel are deployed in Kololo to monitor any further corruption-related tendencies.
The NIRA spokesperson, Gilbert Kadiro could not be reached for comment.