Auditor-General Nancy Gathungu has raised a red flag over Kenya’s record of births and deaths in her latest performance audit report on civil registration data.
Ms Gathungu’s 2020 audit puts the Civil Registration Services (CRS) on the spot as it cannot fully document the number of births and deaths taking place in the country annually.
With this revelation, Ms Gathungu says that the government cannot fully rely on the CRS data for planning and resource allocation for various activities and services to the public.
Other than undertaking registration, CRS is also required to ensure that birth and death certificates are issued on time. However, this has not happened, dampening the registration department’s strategic objectives to raise the registration of births and deaths to 100 percent by 2017.
“The audit revealed that CRS has not been able to perform the functions as expected since the registration coverage is not yet 100 percent,” the audit notes.
“There have also been delays in the issuance of birth and death certificates,” it says.
According to the audit report in our possession, a review of the Kenya Vital Statistics Report of 2018, indicated that the national coverage for births was 1.1 million, which is 73.4 percent of the 1.6 million births estimated and 192,019 deaths, about 40.5 percent against the expected figure of 473,927.
The audit also accuses the Interior Ministry, CRS’ parent ministry, of not providing the necessary funding in line with the approved budget. For instance, in the 2015/16 financial year, CRS collected Sh111.7 million in revenue but was only allocated Sh64.1 million, about 57 percent, for its operations. In the 2017/18 financial year, CRS collected Sh315.43 million but Sh71.1 million was allocated, about 23 percent of the revenue base.
The CRS service charter provides that it should take two days to process and issue a birth or death certificate in Nairobi and Mombasa and a day in sub-county offices.
But this is not the case as those seeking registration are forced to wait for months or even years. More confounding is the fact that the government through the CRS has not created a need for the registration despite its importance in national planning.
Citizens do not understand the need for civil registration and the importance of obtaining birth and death certificates.
The failure to fully implement automated processes and digitisation of birth and death records for increased efficiency has created apathy among citizens who have ignored the exercise despite its national importance.
The report notes that registration happens only when it is need-driven; during registration for national examinations, processing of death benefits or application for travel documents.
This is despite the Births and Deaths Registration Act mandating the civil registration department to register all births and deaths that occur in the country without regard to nationality.
The registration and timely issuance of certificates aids in the provision of accurate vital statistics to different users within the government and beyond.
The failures at the CRS means that the government has to incur more costs to get the accurate data for its planning obligations.
For instance, the government has to pay more for population censuses every 10 years to accurately predict the population in the country. The population census done in 2009 cost about Sh8 billion while the cost for the 2019 census was about Sh18.5 billion.
“Accurate and up-to-date vital data from the CRS would be useful in corroborating census data and also short term and medium term planning,” the audit notes.
Delays in timely issuance of birth and death certificates promotes a negative impact on policy decisions that must rely on statistics like population in the country and causes of deaths.