Uhuru goes slow on Huduma Namba, cuts budget by half

Huduma namba

President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta display their Huduma Namba cards during the 2020 Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kisii County.

Photo credit: PSCU

The National Treasury has cut by more than half the budget for registration of new persons into Huduma Namba.

This means there will a delay in the implementation of the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), which seeks to consolidate the primary information of Kenyans into a single database.

The Treasury had budgeted Sh1 billion in June for a second round of registration to cover those who had missed the first phase in 2019.

It has now reduced that allocation by Sh583.4 million in the supplementary budget presented by Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani to Parliament.

This is more than 58 per cent that the programme had been allocated in June last year. NIIMS registered 38 million people in the first round.

This comes months after the High Court declared the roll-out of Huduma Namba illegal for being in conflict with the Data Protection Act despite the government having already spent more than Sh10 billion on it.

Justice Jairus Ngaah ruled that the government should have conducted impact assessment before rolling out the cards. He ordered it to conduct the assessment to safeguard the data of Kenyans.  

Law scholar Yash Pal Ghai had sued the government, saying it was wrong to issue the cards without conducting assessments of how user data would be handled.

The government rolled out NIIMS through Executive Order No. 1 (2018) in a bid to create and manage a central master database for information about individuals, such as national identity cards and birth certificates, to boost service delivery.

National Assembly Majority Leader Amos Kimunya introduced the Huduma Bill to Parliament in December that would turn NIIMS into law.

“It establishes the NIIMS that will be the primary database for both foundational and functional data from which every other database with personal data of residents of Kenya, such as databases of voters, taxes, and social services, will be built,” said Mr Kimunya in a memorandum accompanying the Bill.

Seeking to address concerns over privacy raised about the programme, the government has vowed to take action against those who leak private information about individuals from the database.

The Bill introduces a Sh5 million fine or five-year imprisonment for individuals who unlawfully and intentionally disclose and disseminate Huduma Namba information.

Meanwhile, those who give false information or make false declarations for registration face a Sh3 million fine or three years in prison.

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