Closing the information gap that is facilitates corruption and money laundering and frustrates asset recovery in Uganda

The registration of persons Act of 2015 despite its ineffective execution by the National Registration and Identification Authority (NIRA) and fraudulent acquisition of National IDs by none Ugandans is a positive development in Uganda. The Act allows NIRA to register Ugandans and issue them with National IDs and maintain a database of Ugandans both alive and deceased. The National IDs assign every person a National Identification Number (NIN) and a National Card Number which is are unique identifiers. Currently, the most notable benefit of the National Identification Number has been the ability to use it to connect a person to his or her bank account, Mobile Money Account, and phone number. If these systems were allowed a measure of interconnectivity, it would be possible to connect a person to all three variables with a click of a button.

This unique identifier can be extended to land registration to register both legal and equitable interests in land. Because hundreds or thousands of people can share the same name, it is often difficult to link land to a specific person unless you Know its exact particulars. For example, if you want to know the land registered to president Tibihaburwa, a search for the name Tibihaburwa might return ten thousand results. This requires an investigator to manually check all the ten thousand results for the Tibihaburwa of interest. Unfortunately, the entries might lack unique identifiers such as pictures and contact details, thus making it nearly impossible to identify the land belonging to the Tibihaburwa in issue. However, if land was registered to a unique identifier such as the NIN, every parcel of land owner by a specific person would be registered to the unique identifier. For example, instead of searching for Tibihaburwa, an investigator would search for his NIN and the electronic system would return all parcels of land registered to the NIN in issue. Other valuable information that can be attached to a NIN include children, spouses, motor vehicles and other assets and jobs.

By having access to reliable information, investigators will be able to trace, track and recover illicitly acquired wealth and funds. The registration of assets and resultant benefits might not completely eliminate corruption and other organised crimes but they will make it easier to recover illicitly acquired wealth and create an effective detterence for many people who are criminals of opportunity.

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