PRUDENCE

Matiang'i seeks Sh1bn for printing Huduma Namba cards

Interior ministry questioned over project's urgency as MPs say it is not a priority

In Summary
  • Close to Sh7 billion has been spent on the digitization process that is expected would cost the taxpayers Sh9.6 billion upon completion
  • MPs at Security and National Administration Committee split on whether to approve the request, which a number say is not a priority
Jubilee politician Suleiman Shahbal, Mombasa Speaker Aharub Khatri, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir and Governor Hassan Joho during the Huduma Namba registration at Treasury Square, Mombasa, on April 16, 2019
HUDUMA NAMBA: Jubilee politician Suleiman Shahbal, Mombasa Speaker Aharub Khatri, Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir and Governor Hassan Joho during the Huduma Namba registration at Treasury Square, Mombasa, on April 16, 2019
Image: CHARLES MGHENYI:

The Interior Ministry is seeking Parliament’s approval for Sh1 billion for printing Huduma Namba cards despite the controversies around the project.

The Fred Matiang’i-led ministry says the money will be spent on the second component of the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS).

Close to Sh7 billion has been spent on the digitisation process that is expected to cost the taxpayers Sh9.6 billion upon completion.

 
 
 

The project, however, has been shrouded in mystery amid concerns about the security of data the government says it wants to use to streamline the public service.

In pitching for NIIMS at inception, Matiang’i said the Huduma Namba would enable the government to provide security, effectively plan resource allocation, and reduce corruption.

Three lobby groups including the Nubian Rights Forum and the Kenya Human Rights Commission have challenged implementation of the NIIMS in court.

Justices Pauline Nyamweya, Mumbi Ngugi and Weldon Korir are expected to determine the validity of the registration, a ruling that will impact on the cash already spent on the project.

It is estimated that about 38 million Kenyans have been listed in the digitized database, which faces doubts of its safety and integrity.

Civil society groups won the first battle with the registration after a court in April allowed their prayers against collecting DNA and GPS data from the citizenry.

The government’s attempt to make Huduma Namba a mandatory precondition to access government services was also defeated in court.

Questions emerged after the state engaged Idemia – formerly known as OT-Morpho - as the supplier of the 35,000 biometric kits used in the listing.

However, it sued the Legislature after PAC declared that the entity has neither local presence or registered under the Companies Act.

Interior PS Karanja Kibicho on Tuesday defended the request for cash to print the cards saying the move would settle Kenyans’ anxiety on the project.

“Over time, we are asked about what we will give at the end of the registration. We want to deal with this by issuing a digital card – a third-generation ID, with unique identifiers,” the PS said.

This would mean the government will spend Sh26 to print each card, factoring the 38 million said to have been reached in the listing drive.

During a review of the supplementary estimates, the Budget and Appropriations Committee equally raised concerns about the Huduma Namba.

BAC chairman Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu MP) said: “At least we know the census numbers and we have seen the report being commissioned. The Huduma Namba is yet to be seen or presented to anybody and now we are being asked for another Sh1 billion. Can’t it wait until the economy improves?”

Apart from the cards, the ministry is seeking Sh2.2 billion for payment of registration officers for the 8-day extension of the mass registration and digitization of data.

MPs at Security and National Administration Committee are split on whether to approve the request, which a number say is not a priority.

Various members of the committee chaired by Paul Koinange (Kiambaa MP) questioned the need for monies yet there is no clarity on what has been spent so far.

“It is not a priority and we may not fund it. However, there are varied opinions on the project but the country’s interest will prevail,” a member of the committee told the Star in confidence.

The chairman said: “We are seized of the concerns by members but the committee will take a decision and the same will be communicated in its report. We are meeting the Interior team tomorrow to finalise.”

The ministry is equally bidding for Sh1 billion to be released from the universal service fund to enhance the fight against cybercrime.

Also under consideration is the request for Sh1 billion to enhance security operations and Sh350 million for Jamhuri and Madaraka Day celebrations. An approval has also been sought for Sh56.6 million spent at the ICPD25 conference.

The Security committee is considering a request for Sh3 billion to cater for expenditure by regional and county commissioners as well as the structures under them.

Kibicho also asked MPs to consider approvinbg Sh472 million for repair of police houses which were vacated after officers were ordered out of camps and police stations.

Another Sh278.9 million is sought for accrued rent arrears for previously leased police houses.

The ministry further wants Parliament to approve Sh1.91 billion to settle outstanding claims for legal dues and compensation.

The PS also presented requests for Sh238 million owed to DT-Dobie for motor vehicles supplied before Kenya Police Service resorted to leasing vehicles.

A request for Sh70 million to construct Kuresoi North subcounty headquarters, Mbeere South police post (Sh20 million), and Matungu police post (Sh20 million) is also pending before the Koinange team.