President Uhuru Kenyatta Wednesday signed into law the Statistics (Amendment) Bill, which gives more powers to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), which will be conducting the national population census next week.
The Statistics (Amendment) Bill, now an Act of law, has given KNBS professional independence and expanded its mandate.
A statement from State House said the new law aims at streamlining the management of statistical information at the national and county levels by ensuring that data collection and processing are conducted in accordance with international best practices and standards.
“The bureau now has professional independence and shall observe the fundamental principles relating to statistics as set out in the Fourth Schedule,” said the statement.
It can now seek legal advice or representation from the office of the Attorney-General, and can also collaborate with, or assist, the county governments or any other institutions to produce official statistics.
Effectively, the bureau has been elevated from simply playing a supportive role to being the main player in developing and maintaining sampling frames.
In a bid to discharge its functions effectively, it has been allowed to set up offices in other parts of the country.
“Professional independence means independence in the production and dissemination of statistics without interference or influence by any individual, interest group or political authority,” the law says.
The new developments are a shot in the arm of the bureau, which has been under immense political pressure from disharmonious parties dictating how it should conduct the forthcoming census, even as its Director General, Mr Zachary Mwangi, maintains that the exercise will be kept professional and credible.
The 2019 National Housing and Population Census will be carried out on the night of August 24.
The headcount, which has been held every 10 years since Independence, suddenly drew great attention since the results will determine division of revenue among county governments.
This was heightened by the controversy over the 2009 census statistics, in which numbers from northern Kenya were said to have been inflated, leading to sparsely populated areas getting more than they deserved in terms of electoral boundaries and revenue allocation.
Central Kenya leaders, among them Senate Deputy Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata and Mathira MP Rigathi Gachagua believe their region suffers from underdevelopment due to the current resource allocation formula, which is based on data collected during the last census.
“Use of biometric kits is the only credible and transparent way of counting people to ensure there is fairness in resource allocation. The 2009 census was fraudulent, skewed and regions where we know there are no numbers came up with figures that cannot be justified,” the Mathira MP said.
Mr Kang’ata, for his part, said: “We were able to tell that there was manipulation of data because we went back to 1999 figures and used that to come up with a fairly accurate projection based on registered births and deaths and other population dynamics.”