What you need to know:
- Cybercafé operators in Meru termed the eCitizen directive a stimulus is in the offing.
- An official at the Huduma Centre in Maralal town said most online government services experience outages and delays, putting clients in limbo.
- In Lamu, residents are facing challenges in some national government departments while paying for services using the government paybill number 222222.
A portrait of frustration and anger. That is the image that comes to mind when you listen to a cross-section of Kenyans about their experiences with the new method of paying for government services via the eCitizen platform.
From numerous repeat trips due to the slow processing of driving licences to inconveniences over delayed loading of medical payments, some Kenyans are seething over the new way of accessing government services.
One of the frustrated Kenyans is Faith Kigen, a resident of Samburu. On February 6, she paid Sh3,600 to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) for her mother’s medical cover through the M-Pesa eCitizen PayBill number, 222222. It took two days for the payment to be validated. She could not access life-saving treatment for her mother during this time, forcing her to seek medication from the more expensive private hospitals.
“I had paid for my mother’s NHIF, but the payment took two days to reflect on her account. The government should make the eCitizen stable, now that most of the services are offered through the platform,” she said with a tinge of anger.
In Maralal, Ann Nyawira nearly missed the funeral of her cousin after an on the e-citizen payment platform that she used to renew her driving licence.
Ms Nyawira voiced her frustrations over the hitch that eventually saw her arrive at the funeral late, having travelled hundreds of kilometres from Maralal town to Kikuyu.
“The hitch added to the anguish,” Ms Nyawira told Nation.
An official at the Huduma Centre in Maralal town said most online government services experience outages and delays, putting clients in limbo.
The affected services include the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA), Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) among others.
Other users complained that they were experiencing difficulties in accessing their eCitizen accounts.
In Nakuru, Reuben Osiemo set out to renew his driving licence on February 2. He, however, received a blank page on eCitizen and a message indicating that there was an error when he attempted to log onto the site.
He needed his licence to ferry goods to Nairobi, but he was stuck. He had to call off his journey.
“I was unable to renew my licence on the platform until February 7, when it went through. My calls to the customer care desk went unanswered. I had to postpone my planned trip from Kisii to Nairobi, to try and sort out the issue,” said Mr Osiemo.
He made his trip to Nairobi on February 8.
In Nyeri, cybercafé owner Anthony Wanjohi says the eCitizen website has become slow since the consolidation of government services.
He says that there have been delays in issuance of receipts after payments, especially for NHIF, NTSA and Higher Education Loans Board (Helb) services.
The most common challenges are in the issuance of smart driving licences, vehicle inspections and the allocation of vehicle number plates.
“This has seen many of my customers, especially those operating commercial vehicles, harassed by traffic police officers on the road,” he said.
In Lamu, residents are facing challenges in some national government departments while paying for services using the government paybill number 222222.
A spot-check by the Nation established that residents were still being sent to the Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) to make payments at the Lamu Old Town Huduma Centre to access services such as those involving National Identity Card (ID) replacement among others.
Those visiting the Registrar of Persons department were, as well, unable to pay for services using the single government paybill as directed by President William Ruto.
Mbwana Titi, one of the affected citizens, said his son had to be referred to KCB to make some payments to enable him to proceed with the ID card application.
“I went with him to Huduma Centre expecting us to use the 222222 paybill, only for us to be told to make the payment via the bank,” said Mr Titi.
Some offices, however, were functioning well.
They include that of Immigration in Lamu Old Town and the lands registry in Mokowe, Lamu West.
At the Kenya Ferry Services terminals in Likoni, where the eCitizen payment system has been in use, there has been a mix of satisfaction and frustration among motorists and ferry personnel.
While some praised its efficiency when the systems were performing okay during peak hours, others lamented delays caused by system malfunctions.
An officer based at the crossing channel, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged the system’s overall effectiveness but highlighted occasional delays in processing payments.
“Sometimes the motorists’ feedback message delays, causing backlogs for those in the queue,” he stated.
He pointed out that transactions were delayed for motorists low on airtime, which is required for those using online apps to make the eCitizen payment.
The National Bank of Kenya, which oversees the system, has stationed personnel to assist motorists with ferry payments, enhancing convenience. Some frustrated motorists exited their vehicles to seek assistance with payments.
At Fort Jesus, despite officials offering guidance on utilising the e-citizen platform, tourists reported being stranded due to system glitches.
In Meru, Michael Mutwiri, a resident, raised concerns over the plans to pay school fees through eCitizen, decrying inconveniences during system outages.
“Also, the system charges Sh50 per transaction and this is an added cost. The government should review the directive,” he said.
In Taita Taveta, some of the users around Tsavo National Park said the government’s eCitizen portal has made it easier for tourists to pay park fees for various national parks and reserves in the country.
Tausa Tsavo Ecolodge manager, David Gaitho, said the portal has been seamless and convenient.
Mr Gaitho said they have been making payments for their clients and have not experienced any hitches recently.
“There were teething problems but now it works, It is perfect. We pay while in the hotel and at the gate we just show the e-slip and waste no time. We do not have to queue or deal with cash at the gate. I can pay the park fee in case I have guests even for April,” he said.
Cybercafé operators in Meru termed the eCitizen directive a stimulus is in the offing.
“It will be a business boom for us and we urge Kenyans to embrace technology. We are ready to assist anybody who is not conversant with the system,” said Kenneth Kiambi, who operates Courtesy Cyber Café in Meru town.
Reporting by Eric Matara, Geoffrey Ondieki, Jurgen Nambeka, Kalume Kazungu, Lucy Mkanyika, Gitonga Marete and Mercy Mwende