Telecoms fail to verify four million sim cards due to mismatching NINs

The Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology says that details of nearly four million Sim Cards submitted by subscribers cannot be matched with the provided National Identification Numbers (NINs).

Vincent Bagiire made the revelation while appearing before a parliamentary joint committee chaired by Tororo North MP Annet Nyakecho.

The committee consisting of MPs sitting on the committees of defense and internal affairs, Equal opportunities and that of ICT was tasked to assess the progress of the sim card verification exercise whose deadline is next week Thursday.

In his submission, Bagiire said that different telecom companies submitted the total number of their subscribers to the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) with a view of matching the sim card numbers to the provided NINs.

“Some of the individuals who sent numbers were found to exist and could relate numbers to particular individuals but some were not found, they could not be matched to a NIN,” said Bagiire.

He said that out of the 16,921,861 million Sim Card details submitted by MTN, the biggest telecom operator, 15,982,381 were verified with only 13.4 million registration details found to be matching with the NINs.

Bagiire however noted that 2.5 million MTN Sim Card registration details cannot be matched to a National Identification Number (NIN).

For Airtel which is the second largest telecom company, out of the 11,232,568 million Sim Card details submitted, nine million were verified by NIRA with only eight million registration details found to be matching with NINs. At least 941,000 Sim Cards were found not to be matching their NIN details.

Bagiire further revealed that Africell submitted three million Sim Card details to NIRA out of which two million were verified with 1.4 million found to be matching with the provided NIN details. At least 542,111 could not be matched to the provided NINs.

For Ugandan Telecom (UTL), 236,891 thousand Sim Card details were submitted out of which NIRA verified 159,141. A total of 136, 708 matched the NIN details provided while 22,434 could not be matched to the NINs.

Explaining why some Sim Cards could not be verified even after the provision of the National Identification Numbers (NINs), Bagiire attributed this to mistakes carried in the NIN while registering.

He also highlighted malpractices within the telecom industry saying that some individuals within the telecom companies are involved in a scam he described as “Sim-boxing”

According to Bagiire, Sim-boxing is where a fraudulent subscriber can terminate international calls through local phone numbers in the respective country to make it appear as if the call is a local call.

For parliament’s ICT committee chairperson Annet Nyakecho, the numbers that cannot be matched to NINs could be ghost Sim cards which are purchased by different individuals for unknown reasons.

All agencies involved in the registration of Sim Cards are expected to appear before parliament’s Committee on Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on Thursday to give a definitive position on whether the August 31st deadline will be maintained or not.

The deadline for validation of Sim Cards was initially extended from May 19 to August 30 to give more time to telecom companies to complete the verification of subscribers who had not obtained National Identification Numbers at the time.

Only 11 million sim cards had been validated by May 2017, according to data released by the Uganda Communications Commission.