Na­tional IDs de­ba­cle

The sit­ting was presided over by the Speaker of Par­lia­ment Rt. Hon. Re­becca Al­it­wala Kadaga. In her com­mu­ni­ca­tion, she in­formed mem­bers that it had be­come very dif­fi­cult for Ugan­dans to ac­quire and re­place Na­tional Iden­tity Cards. She told the Mem­bers that she had learnt that the process can even take about four years.

MPs de­bated the chal­lenges faced by Ugan­dans while ob­tain­ing their Na­tional Iden­tity Cards. Hon. Muham­mad Nsereko pro­posed that Par­lia­ment should in­struct the Na­tional Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion & Reg­is­tra­tion Au­thor­ity (NIRA) and the Min­istry of In­ter­nal Af­fairs to is­sue all the peo­ple’s lost Na­tional Iden­tity Cards not­ing that Par­lia­ment ap­pro­pri­ates money for such work. On the same mat­ter, Hon. Waluswaka James pro­posed that the charge of 50,000 Uganda shillings should be re­moved when seek­ing re­place­ment for Na­tional Iden­tity Cards. Mem­bers also ex­pressed con­cern that the ser­vices of NIRA are not de­cen­tralised which makes it dif­fi­cult for peo­ple from rural ar­eas to ob­tain or re­place their Iden­tity Cards.

In re­sponse, Hon. Obiga Ka­nia, the State Min­is­ter for In­ter­nal Af­fairs, pre­sented a state­ment re­gard­ing the de­cen­tral­iza­tion of NIRA ser­vices. He in­formed the House that while ef­fec­tive de­cen­tral­iza­tion of na­tional ID reg­is­tra­tion ser­vices re­mains a key pri­or­ity for the gov­ern­ment, there are a num­ber of is­sues and chal­lenges that need to be ad­dressed at NIRA.

He as­serted that un­der the cur­rent op­er­a­tional setup, en­roll­ment data cap­tured at the NIRA dis­trict of­fices has to be man­u­ally trans­ported on hard dri­ves to Kololo and up­loaded onto the cen­tral server for pro­cess­ing. This is pri­mar­ily be­cause the NIRA dis­trict and di­vi­sion of­fices are not con­nected to the Na­tional Back­bone In­fra­struc­ture (NBI). To date, only 433 staff (50.2%) of out of the 865 staff as per the ap­proved struc­ture have been ap­pointed and de­ployed across the 117 NIRA ser­vice cen­tres coun­try­wide, in­clud­ing the Ko1olo head­quar­ters and dis­trict and di­vi­sion of­fices out of the 134 dis­tricts in the coun­try.  The Min­is­ter said that this leaves a staffing gap of 432 staff. The over­all ef­fect of this staffing gap on ser­vice de­liv­ery can­not be overem­pha­sized.

 Coro­n­avirus

In the same sit­ting, a state­ment to Par­lia­ment on Coro­n­avirus up­dates and Pre­ven­tive mea­sures to be taken by Pub­lic was pre­sented by Dr. Joyce Moriku Ka­ducu, Min­is­ter of State for Health, Pri­mary Health Care. The Min­is­ter in­formed mem­bers that En­tebbe and Naguru re­fer­ral hos­pi­tals as well as Mu­lago Na­tional Re­fer­ral Hos­pi­tal Grade A have been pre­pared to re­ceive and man­age sus­pected and con­firmed cases. In ad­di­tion, she said that all re­gional re­fer­ral hos­pi­tals are be­ing pre­pared to man­age peo­ple who might fall sick. Am­bu­lances have been pro­vided to trans­port sus­pected cases to the ap­pro­pri­ate level of care. The Uganda Virus Re­search In­sti­tute has the nec­es­sary equip­ment and reagents to test and con­firm any sus­pected COVID-19 sam­ple in the coun­try.

The Health Min­is­ter in­formed Par­lia­ment that her Min­istry also mo­bi­lized a mo­bile lab­o­ra­tory fa­cil­ity for ad­di­tional test­ing ca­pac­ity and the train­ing for us­age of this fa­cil­ity has been com­pleted and arrange­ment for its use was be­ing set. The min­is­ter also high­lighted some of the pre­ven­tive mea­sures that peo­ple should adopt in­clud­ing; reg­u­lar and thor­ough clean­ing of hands with an al­co­hol-based rub or wash­ing them with wa­ter and soap, cov­er­ing the mouth and nose with tis­sue or a hand­ker­chief when cough­ing and sneez­ing,  main­tain­ing a rea­son­able dis­tance when there peo­ple who are cough­ing or sneez­ing.

Hon. Mbam­bali Muyanja said that some Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment had re­cently trav­elled back from South Ko­rea and won­dered if par­lia­ment was safe from coro­n­avirus. He pro­posed a tem­po­rary ban on Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, Ex­ec­u­tive and busi­ness peo­ple from trav­el­ling to risky coun­tries.

Elec­toral re­forms

Par­lia­ment passed the Par­lia­men­tary Elec­tions (Amend­ment) Bill, 2019 at the third read­ing. Ma­jor­ity of the Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment were in favour of main­tain­ing the nom­i­na­tion fees for Par­lia­men­tary Elec­tions should be main­tained at 3,000,000 Uganda shillings. Some mem­bers, how­ever, ar­gued that this will dis­en­fran­chise the ma­jor­ity of the young peo­ple who would wish to run for Par­lia­men­tary elec­tions but can­not af­ford the 3,000,000 shillings. Hon. Nan­dala Mafabi pro­posed that the nom­i­na­tion fees be re­duced to 200,000 Uganda shillings. Hon. Olanya Gilbert was also propos­ing that the fees be re­duced to cater for the ma­jor­ity of the youth. “Let us be re­al­ist, the pub­lic is not happy with the 3,000,000 mil­lion Uganda Shillings for nom­i­na­tion fees. This will ex­clude fresh grad­u­ates who can’t af­ford such money.” He said.  How­ever, the sta­tus quo was main­tained at 3,000,000 nom­i­na­tion fees in favour of the ma­jor­ity mem­bers and the bill was passed with amend­ments.