President Uhuru Kenyatta has named a new national identity registration team ahead of the national population census expected in August.
The inter-ministerial team, expected to generate a new comprehensive national population register of all Kenyans and legal aliens resident in the country by June, is chaired by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and reports to the President.
In a special gazette notice, the President named members of the Matiang’i team to include the Cabinet secretaries for National Treasury, ICT, Transport, Agriculture, Health, Education and the Attorney-General.
The team’s secretariat is domiciled at the Office of the President headed by Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho, whose members comprise relevant principal secretaries from respective ministries.
The points out their the terms of reference: “Creating, managing and maintaining a national population database of personal information of all Kenyan citizens and registered foreigners living in Kenya … and assign a unique identification numbers (Huduma Namba) to persons in the national database.”
The gazette notice states that the team is also charged with “ensuring preservation, protection and security of the information or data collected, obtained and stored in national population data base”.
Late last year, the Ministry of Interior advertised for supply of a Huduma Namba logo for use in national publicity campaigns on its website.
It is the first population register of its kind intended to clean-up civil registration database that has since been discredited as untidy and source of perennial electoral headache of “ghost” voters among other concerns, which involves manipulation of old manual records of dead citizens.
Disputed census results have also becomes a source of political controversy which the new biometric system hopes to put to rest with fool proof and verifiable population register of all people from birth to the grave.
Security agencies, universal healthcare providers and the tax man are among agencies listed as immediate beneficiaries in weeding out criminals operating with forged or stolen identity documents, curbing fraud in health insurance claims and enhancing tax compliance.
Absence of mechanisms to account for all people in every part of the country makes public safety planning and operations in disaster situations a nightmare.
Although the January 4 gazette notice creates the inter-ministerial committee for an initial period of two years starting December 5, 2018, a ministry of Interior matrix seen by the Sunday Nation envisaged a phased rollout comprising legal and administrative review of existing systems concurrent.
The implementation includes: three months from commencement to procure 30,000 biometric kits; three months of enrolments, involving software installation, configuration, and testing; training of 30,000 agents to conduct the registration.
This is expected to be followed by massive registration of the population and transfer of enrolment to a central site installation of the National Integrated Identity Management System among others.
The suppliers of the biometric kits reported to cost Sh3 billion were yet to be made public.
During his inauguration speech for the second and final term, President Kenyatta declared an open borders policy for all East Africans wishing to live and work in Kenya, and the new system is also expected to plug gaps in cross-border security concerns and monitoring alien arrivals and profiles.
The national population database ahead of the census is part of preparations to make protect the integrity of the headcount results and national elections — including a possible referendum.
According to the Interior ministry plan, the new system is expected to function as the primary reference data base for all Kenyan government personal data needs.
Separately, the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) had earlier indicated it plans to procure 165,000 smart phones installed with data capture and transmission software for the first digital census late in the year.
The smart phones eliminate the traditional paper questionnaire and tedious data entry, enhancing accuracy and speed for results release.
KNBS director general Zachary Mwangi was upbeat about the preparations, saying the equipment, recruitment of 200,000 plus workforce should be in place by May.