The Huduma Namba registration controversy, it appears, is not going away any time soon. In fact, it’s likely to be escalated by the proposed law to make it mandatory for all Kenyans to have the Huduma number. Should the draft Huduma Bill 2019 be enacted by Parliament and assented to by the President, it will become the major national identification, without which no Kenyan will be able to access government services.
While one cannot argue against the need to streamline the delivery of government services by having a single identification number, the push for Huduma Namba raises some pertinent questions.
Could the proposed legislation be aimed at scrapping the current national identity card? What of the other forms of identification, including birth certificates?
The proposal, though well-intentioned and meant to streamline national identification to enhance public and private sector service delivery, could come at a huge cost to the government, at a time when there are more pressing needs.
The issuing of national IDs is an ongoing process. A sudden changeover will also present a logistical challenge.
It will also be recalled that in March, the High Court ruled that the Huduma Namba registration was voluntary and that no one should be denied access to government services for not enlisting.
And, from May, voluntary registration was carried out, with millions of eligible Kenyans getting enlisted, but not everybody. Should the proposed Huduma law be enacted, it means that the current IDs will be rendered null and void, leaving the hefty investment in civil registration to go down the drain.
It would be more effective to gradually phase out the current identification and introduce the new system for new applicants. The current holders of national IDs needing replacement after loss or damage would also be enrolled into the new system.