Fight over national ID deal splits Parliament
A fight between two firms interested in processing data and printing identity (ID) cards for Ugandan nationals is simmering, with the House Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs caught in the crosshairs.
This publication understands that Muehlbauer High Technology and Veridos Identity Solutions want to be top when a decision is made.
The first batch of national ID cards will expire at the start of next year. A mass registration and ID card renewal exercise is consequently expected to take centre stage in the coming months.
The exercise takes on added significance because verifying voters during the 2026 General Election will ride piggyback on the ID cards. To guarantee fairness and transparency, the government is expected to outsource a competent company.
The two-horse race between Maulbauer and Veridos has ignited a ‘bidding war.’ We understand that Maulbauer pitched a section of members of the Committee on Defence and Internal Affairs. This resulted in the secondment of Maulbauer to run point on the deal.
This recommendation was noted in the ministerial policy statement tabled by Ms Rosemary Nyakikongoro, the chair of the parliamentary committee on Defence and Internal Affairs. A minority report presented by Mr Bashir Sempa Lubega (Mubende Municipality), however, threw its weight behind Veridos.
Ms Nyakikongoro says those in the Veridos camp are questioning Maulbauer’s competencies over carrying out a “mass enrolment” project.
The Sheema District Woman MP, however, says it is foolhardy to call Maulbauer’s ability into question. She told the House that Shs117.8b will be made available for mass enrolment.
“We are going to have a mass enrollment and renewal project of Shs298.2b to develop new system and undertake mass registration of 17.2m unregistered citizens in the national identification register and renewal of 15.8m national identity cards that are due to expire,” she revealed, adding that the Electoral Commission expects to be furnished with an updated National Identification and Registration Authority or Nira register for the 2026 General Election by November 2024.
Maulbauer set up the current system that Nira uses. While some condemn it for being outdated, Ms Nyakikongoro says “procuring a new system and disregarding the existing one will be more expensive.” She notes that upgrading the existing system will lead to the introduction of “new IDs with a chip and data recovery of the ID at an exchange rate of $380.”
She added: “When we visited Veridos, they told us that by the time they finish the construction of the factory and produce the necessary materials for the identify cards, it will be in 2027.” It was also made clear by the committee that Nira will need Shs12.67b to recruit staff.
Mr Sempa, however, faults the committee’s top brass for engaging in the procurement process by telling the government what to do.
“The majority report makes a stray recommendation that Nira engages Maulbauer … to upgrade and maintain the current system and produce new national IDs with more security features like chip and also set up a data recovery system to save resources,” Mr Lubega said.
He added: “The committee leadership unilaterally held private interactions with Muehlbauer High Technology International both in the country and in Germany and these trips were not sanctioned by committee.”
He said the position Ms Nyakikongoro is fronting is representative of only the committee’s top brass.
A section of the committee led by the leadership overstepped their mandate by engaging in vendor selection in total contravention of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Act…”
He warned that “returning the vendor … who managed the current system for the seven years” made no sense on account of the poor track record.
“The allegations being raised here … affect all of us because we are judged,” Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa said, adding,“My first guidance next time you have such issues, first reach out to the leadership of the House when you don’t agree.”
Washing dirty linen
A Pandora’s box had been opened on the floor of Parliament and the House leadership was struggling to force the genie back into the bottle. “We felt that the matter of Maulbauer was not part of the report by members of the committee. When we came to read through the report, we realised that something which we did not actually agree on had been smuggled in,” Mr Godfrey Wakooli, a member of the Defence and Internal Affairs committee, told the Monitor.
Ms Nyakikongoro, however, insists that the committee unanimously agreed to throw its weight behind Muehlbauer.
“Veridos actually said that they were not ready, but the Speaker had already given us the mandate to go. So we said let’s go and look at Muehlbauer,” she said.
Mr Lubega further stirred a hornet’s nest by questioning how Maulbauer came into the picture. “Maulbauer,” he said, “has no agreement. It was terminated. How did even our leadership generate the need to go to Germany because it didn’t even come through the committee to say that we need to benchmark? So they have never talked about it.”
Mr Abdu Katuntu, a veteran MP, reminded the House that constitutionally Parliament “is not mandated to do procurement.” He added: “The moment we start meddling on who should provide service, we are already in the procurement process. It infringes the Constitution [and] our mandate. Ours is policy, oversight. When did we go to the extent of recommending vendors or service providers? We need to move very carefully on that. ”
Mr Tayebwa referred the two reports to the Budget committee “for processing [and] consolidation.”