What you need to know:
- A corruption network involving pastors and workers at the Attorney-General’s Chambers has emerged in which a couple parts with around Sh70,000 to speed up the process of their civil union.
- The situation is so bad that some couples have had to proceed with Church weddings without certificates.
A crisis is brewing at the Civil Registry as Kenyans cry foul over the bureaucracy in getting marriage certificates.
The situation is so bad that some couples have had to proceed with Church weddings without certificates from the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
It is a prerequisite to have the marriage certificate issued by the state in triplicate – one for the couple, the other for the religious organisation (church, civil, Hindu, Islamic or Customary) and the third for custody by the AG.
Prior to issuing of the document, a couple is required to give a marriage notification of at least 21 days to the registrar and the marriage must be solemnised within 90 days from the date of notice.
After expiry of the notification period, the registrar issues the couple a certificate showing the marriage record exists.
This is the point at which the crisis is unravelling, especially at the Registrar of Marriages offices countrywide. Government officials say it is the first time such a backlog of documents has been witnessed from Sheria House.
After painstaking months of planning weddings, and spending a lot of resources, desperate couples are taking extraordinary measures to salvage their dream dates.
One couple that applied in June had to contend carrying on with the wedding this month with only a handwritten notification to the effect: “they have been given temporary clearance to have their wedding awaiting issuance of the certificate from the registrar”.
After the ceremony, the couple left the church’s copy with the presiding cleric as the two have not been given a serial number from the AG’s Chambers.
They had to contend with this temporary arrangement because the alternative was too costly – postponing the wedding indefinitely despite the extensive planning until the state document was available.
As the crippling backlog at the State Law Offices continues, a corruption avenue has emerged targeting desperate couples.
A syndicate involving rogue employees and religious leaders at the marriage registry is charging Sh70,000 per couple to speed up the process.
The situation has been compounded by the recent directive by the President to move thousands of government services online via the e-citizen platform.
Application for a certified copy of a marriage certificate is among the processes that have been transferred online.
But insiders say the problem is that processes at the State Law Office are still largely manual and analogue, hence the backlog.
President William Ruto recently unveiled digitisation of government services at Kenyatta International Convention Centre.
The colourful ceremony included witnessing one civil marriage.
Contacted by the Saturday Nation, Attorney-General, Justin Muturi ,acknowledged the crisis at the Marriage Registry.
Mr Muturi added that he is preparing a document to be presented to the Cabinet on the online services at the State Law office.
“I have received numerous complaints. The department deals with public matters. This is an issue facing state agencies, ministries, departments, counties and commissions,” Mr Muturi said.
Insiders told the Saturday Nation that the backlog at the registry dates back years and disclosed that the manual exercise could be by design to steal public funds and erase many digital footprints.
“Couples registering for marriage are not getting the certificates. They are getting notifications, some even handwritten,” said a source at the State Law Office.
Said another: “Pastors are hanging around the State Law Office to offer services and promising to speed up everything. Since the processes are manual, the pastors are in cahoots with officials at the State Law Office. The religious leaders receive Sh30,000 while the workers get the remaining Sh40,000.”
The Office of the Attorney-General Act 49 of 2012 stipulates operations of the office, including functions of the Registrar of Marriages.
The registrar, Mary Wanjiku Mutaru, said the office conducts 20 to 30 civil unions daily.
Even on Wednesday, when the opposition Azimio la Umoja One Kenya alliance called protests against the high cost of living, the office officiated 25 marriages, Ms Mutaru says.
“Every couple went home with a marriage certificate,” the registrar said.
“If anyone claims they did not get the certificate, the facts could be different. We officiated the unions of 30 couples the following day. The question of a backlog does not arise.”
The Saturday Nation has since established that a couple that was to legalise its marriage in Kenya recently could not do so.
The Kenyan woman who was wedding an Australian could not hold back tears.
“The two – one in his 60s and the other in her 50s – were disappointed when they could not get the certificate after their union at the civil registry. The woman weeped, indicating the challenges she faces as a result of not legalising the marriage,” said an official at the State Law Office.
Ms Mutaru contradicted her boss, saying couples get certificates for all marriages officiated by her office.
She added that the submission of documents and payment are done online, while issuing the marriage certificate is manual as it should be in the presence of the couple, the registrar and two witnesses.
“There are five signatures required. The process begins with the online submission of documents and payment. We offer 13 services and they are not all marriages. That includes the issuing of certified copies of marriage certificates,” Ms Mutaru told the Saturday Nation.
“The retrieval of marriage certificate copies might delay as we get the couple’s particulars from the national database since the search is manual. The filing of documents previously was also manual. The process is partly manual and partly digital.”
She said President William Ruto’s directive to onboard government services to e-Citizen is well intended and the hitches encountered are addressed as they emerge.
“Digitisation began during the Covid -19 pandemic to avoid crowding at our offices. Our intention is to serve Kenyans properly and iron out any teething systematic problems,” the registrar added.
The Marriage Act, 2014 provides for five ways of getting married – civil, Christian, customary, Hindu and Islamic marriages.
Civil unions are conducted at the Registrar of Marriage offices and Deputy County Commissioner or Assistant County Commissioner offices.
They are done through notice or by special licence.
The notice is where both parties are Kenyans. It involves the placing of a 21-day marriage notice before the union takes place.
Special licence is necessary where any of the parties is a foreigner, both parties are foreigners, marriage is outside a licensed place, parties are unable to give a 21-day notice or are monogamous in nature.
For Kenyans, a civil marriage takes place when both parties appear before the Registrar of Marriages to fill a notice form.
Valid national identity cards or passports are required (copy and original), coloured passport-size photographs and death certificate if widowed or divorced decree absolute.
Should the divorce decree be more than a year old or a death certificate is more than two years old, an affidavit to confirm marital status will be needed. The couple pays a Sh3,900 fee.
Marriage by special licence costs Sh9,700.
Foreigners pay the same amount if the wedding is conducted at the registrar’ office and Sh16,700 if it is at a garden.
If both parties are foreigners, valid passports (copies and original), coloured passport-size photographs, birth certificates (copies and original) and proof of no impediment to marriage through among others a valid United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Mandate or alien card.