Dar es Salaam. The National Identification Authority (Nida) is finalising legal arrangements to start using the National Electoral Commission (NEC) database in registration and issuing national IDs.
The move revealed by Nida acting director general Modestus Kipilimba is a major about-turn by the agency that has for the past three years opposed any attempt to have it work with NEC on national IDs.
“We are making some legal arrangements before we start using data from NEC,” he told The Citizen in his office.
Sources told The Citizen that the agency was awaiting an executive directive to start sharing data with NEC.
Nida has in recent years been involved in a covert turf war with NEC over the control of a national database for Tanzanian citizens.
The two agencies crossed paths over NEC’s Sh293 billion biometric voter registration (BVR) project, with Nida officials reportedly being unhappy that its own ID project had been overlooked.
Nida had gone further to state that some forces in and outside the government may have conspired to have NEC launch the BVR project at the expense of Nida, whose own registration of Tanzanians was technically a replica of what NEC was doing.
Dr Kipilimba told The Citizen that the issuance of new national IDs would resume in April.
The authority intends to issue IDs to over 25 million people aged 18 and above, legitimate refugees and foreigners resident in the country by the end of this year.
Dr Kipilimba said the authority had started the process of installing Nida’s software in over 500 BVR kits that would be used to speed up the process.
The new development comes two months after President John Magufuli sacked former Nida boss Dickson Maimu to pave the way for an investigation into the questionable expenditure of nearly Sh180 billion in the national IDs project.
A few days after sacking Mr Maimu, President Magufuli publicly criticised the agency for registering only 2.5 million Tanzanians despite massive support from the government and praised NEC for registering 22.7 million Tanzanians in less then a year despite facing financial constraints.
The fact that Nida does not expect more billions from the government for the job, sharing data with NEC was the only option for the agency.
Dr Kipilimba says the go-ahead to start using the NEC database would simplify the registration process. He added that the use of the NEC database would also spare Tanzanians the inconvenience of spending hours in queues.
Under the current arrangement, Tanzanians who have acquired voter cards will not have to re-register with Nida. The agency will use the NEC data to issue them with national IDs.
Only individuals who are not registered as voters and those who have attained 18 years who will have to visit registration centres with supporting documents.
According to Dr Kipilimba, the information contained in the NEC database would not be all that the agency would need before it clears an individual for issuance of an ID.
“We will call people asking them to come and collect their ID cards, but before we do that you will have to present other information and supporting documents to help us ascertain your citizenship,” he said.
He said the names of all individuals eligible for registration would be pinned on local government notice boards for seven days to allow people with objections to raise them to ensure that everyone who secures an ID is Tanzanian.
The registration process will be conducted in two phases.
The first phase involves mobilisation of resources, including the posting of Nida officials countrywide for the verification exercise scheduled to take place from before the end of this month up to June.
“The first phase process involving the distribution of machines and verification is expected to cost Sh13 billion,” Dr Kipilimba said.
He said verification work would involve local government leaders, immigration officials and the Registration, Insolvency and Trusteeship Agency (Rita) to ensure only eligible people would be provided with IDs. Dr Kipilimba said unlike the previous exercise, Nida would this time issue identification numbers to the public while ID cards were being processed.
He added that identification numbers would enable members of the public to be identified as ID holders while not possessing the actual IDs.
“Our strategy is to issue identification numbers so that people can have an identity while they await the actual IDs since our capacity is only 24,000 cards per day and therefore cannot produce over 25 million IDs by the end of the year,” Dr Kipilimba said.
He added that the agency expects to issue new IDs to 10 million Tanzanians by the end of this year while the another 15 million will be issued with the documents gradually.
Nida is currently in the process of testing its new internal database that will be used to keep records as well as the authority’s information to enable easier access by the public.
In another development, the authority said it will continue using the Malaysian company Iris which had won a tender to supply 25 million IDs.
The awarding of a $117.18 million (about Sh187 billion) tender for voter registration kits to the Malaysian firm was also a source of friction, with NEC arguing that it would not risk failure by relying on Nida whose work was viewed as somewhat sluggish.