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Museveni fires National ID boss Gama

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Judy Obitre-Gama, the executive director of National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) has been ordered to vacate office immediately on July 15, 2020, when her contract ends. 

Gama, who has been at the helm of the authority since 2015, will not have her contract renewed on the orders of President Yoweri Museveni. 

In a May 18th, 2020 letter to Internal Affairs minister, Jeje Odongo, Museveni directs that a new executive director with legal and information technology background be identified to head the authority. 

Gama’s reign has been dogged with several issues of corruption, nepotism, poor performance and incompetence, allegations in the issuance and replacement of identity cards. Some people who applied for IDs 3-4 years ago have not received them. 

“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 need to identify a new executive director, preferably with legal or information technology background,” Museveni said in his letter to Odongo. 

In 2018, the auditor general said NIRA had failed to account for over Shs 8.4bn – including Shs 2.1 billion paid out to individual personal accounts and another Shs 1.3 billion which was deposited to the personal account of the accountant.

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. The auditor general said NIRA had led to the loss of Shs 2.7bn after purchasing overpriced 2,000 laptops and 6,000 laptop batteries with only 350 batteries delivered. 

Parliament’s defense committee headed then by Judith Nabakooba (now Information and National Guidance minister) in 2018 handed Gama to the Criminal Investigations Department for investigations after failing to provide evidence of the use of government resources.

According to the committee, the authority didn’t have documents and records in relation to their activities and operations. NIRA didn’t have authentic paperwork showing what they are doing and the executive director was accused of using her position to recruit staff without approval from Public Service. 

NIRA failed to avail minutes of board meetings for the first two years, which MPs said is unacceptable for an authority which is managing Uganda’s data system.

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.

In February this year, Museveni appointed a new board for NIRA led by James Biribonwa, a former commissioner at Electoral Commission to help push the authority to be effective. Biribonwa then tasked the authority management to explain the detailed process of national ID replacement and explain why it takes longer. 

Gama, 50, is an academic who previously served as a lecturer at Makerere University law school and several boards, including that of Uganda Registration Services Bureau, and Bank of Uganda. 

She worked as head of legal and surveillance at Uganda Securities Exchange and as a lawyer for the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). 

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