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Telecoms use fake gadgets for sim card verification-NIRA

Mr. Christopher Katinti Manager ICT at NIRA blames telecom operators for using fake gadgets to verify sim card registration. (PHOTO/FILE)

KAMPALA – The National Identity Registration Authority (NIRA) has blamed the recent failure by telecom operators to verify sim cards on the companies’ failure to invest in quality gadgets, something that has left subscribers frustrated.

Making the revelation was Christopher Katinti Manager ICT at NIRA while responding to questions from MPs on the Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) who questioned why Ugandans are being made to register again and reports of fingerprints disappearing.

In his submission, Katinti told the Committee that following Uganda Communications Commission to have phone users verify their sim cards again, they received complaints of people failing to register sim cards on grounds that the Authority had no record of fingerprints, but further investigation revealed that Telecoms were using poor quality gadgets.

“We received complaints where an MTN would fail to have their sim cards verified but if you use other networks like Airtel and Africell, the verification of the sim card would be accepted. We tried five of the people whose verification had failed and found out that it’s in the way they captured fingerprints. it was quality of gadget and threshold of resolution they were using and MTN is working on it,” Katinti explained.

Asked to explain how far the Authority has gone into ridding the Authority of staff who are auctioning Uganda’s citizenship, Judy Gama told the Committee that although Ugandans have raised those cases, they have failed to come up with evidence pinning NIRA staff, leaving the Authority with no option but ignore complaints.

However, her response angered MPs who directed the Authority to make use of intelligence tactics and arrest culprits instead of forcing all Ugandans to sign up as intelligence chiefs.

The officials from NIRA had appeared before the Committee to respond to audit queries raised in the June 2018 report which highlighted that Shs1,559,088,886 was charged on the wrong account codes without authority with the audit team warning that the absence of mechanism to monitor movement of funds from one code to another

NIRA responded in acknowledgement that money was wrongly charged on maintenance and other items describing the action as regrettable.

The report also faulted the Authority for failing to hit their Shs105bn Non-Tax Revenue collections that was meant to supplement the releases from treasury after only Shs2.8bn was collected by the end of the financial year leaving a balance of Shs102bn as unrealised

The Authority defended the revenue shortfalls attributing it to the policy decision to stop NIRA from registration of aliens before harmonisation of policies with DCIC. Also, a cabinet directive was given instructing the Minister of Internal Affairs to waive fees regarding sim card registration and verification citing security reasons.

A review of the financial statements for NIRA also established that NIRA has contingency liabilities amounting to Shs1.2bn in respect to operations of learners’ project and these relate to additional operational costs incurred by NIRA staff during the implementation of the project before formal approval.

Further, as much as the law requires that all government financial management information systems will be made by Electronic Funds Transfer to the beneficiary bank accounts, Shs1,275,922,002Bn was paid to staff personal accounts for undertaking activities. Of this amount, facilitation for field operations was Shs728,926,502 and Shs546,995,500 fuel facilitation for the project which fuel could have been loaded on cards.

However, NIRA argued that whereas the e-Cash was a recommended mode of payment but being web based it is not easily accessible in areas where internet is not readily available.

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