Electronic transfer of census results likely to compromise integrity

Population and household census is of great relevance to the economic, political and socio-cultural planning of a country. It is an official count of all the people in a country. It is usually carried out every ten years in most countries, Kenya included.

Reliable and detailed data on the size, structure and distribution of a country’s population are required for both planning and research purposes. A population census is the major source of these bench mark data and gives the Government a toll on which to plan for service delivery. The next population census is on August 24, 2019. In the previous population census there wasn’t much controversy.

The 2019 census will probably be the most controversial in the history of Kenya since the first census 1942. Kenya’s population data indicates the numerical strength of ethnic groups.This has implications during election periods when generally, people vote based on their ethnic configurations. The larger the population of an ethnic group the higher the chances such a group has to dominate the political landscape.

The post-election violence in the aftermath of the 2007 elections was ethnically driven. It was all about which ethnic group won the elections and to those who lost, it meant being excluded from the national cake. Therefore, population and ethnicity are intertwined since larger ethnic groups have the numbers and can influence the politics of the country.

SEE ALSO :State to spend Sh18.5 billion on 2019 Census

Highest allocations

There are new dynamics to population and ethnicity in Kenya, particularly since the inception of the devolved system of government. The Commission of Revenue Allocations (CRA), uses population as an important denominator for allocating the sharable revenue. The counties with large populations proportionally receive higher allocations compared to those with low population.

For example, Lamu County had the least population and consequently received the least allocation of funds. Counties such as Nairobi, Kakamega, Kiambu and Mandera, with high populations received the highest allocations.The 2019 Population census has already raised emotions. There is a general belief that some counties, particularly those in the Northern parts of Kenya, have exaggerated population figures; meaning they unfairly received more allocations based on the 2009 census, even though these assumptions might not be true.

In 2013, the government through the Kenya National Bureau of statistics went to court to challenge the results of a census it conducted for 8 sub-counties. The High court rejected the prayer by the Government to revise the results.

The national bureau of statistics appealed the case. The Court of Appeal set aside orders barring the National Bureau of Statistics from using, gazetting or publishing the revised census results from 8 sub counties in Northern on account that they were not reflecting the population in the area.

SEE ALSO :Legislators vow to ban OT Morpho from Sh3 billion deal

Transmitted manually

The government now plans to use electronic means to transmit the results of the 2019 census directly from the enumeration points to a central server similar to the mode of transmission of the election results of 2017. Already, leaders from the northern parts of Kenya are concerned that there could be a plan to manipulate and reduce the population of the people from that region.

The concerns are raised by the fact that there shall be no manual back up and in the event of failure by the gadgets to transmit the numbers, the region might become disadvantaged in revenue allocation due to reduced population numbers.

During the elections of 2017, IEBC acknowledged that 11,000 polling stations were not linked to the safaricom data network and the results were to be transmitted manually. Most of the said polling stations are in the northern parts of Kenya and this is causing suspicion regarding the intentions of the government.

My concern is the 2019 census results might not see the light of the day. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics must prepare for legal battle. Since they had preceded in taking themselves to court, the other stakeholders in this exercise such as county governments or members of parliament might decide to challenge the results of the census if it does not suit their expected results or if irregularities are detected.

Like the case of Nigeria where the last census was conducted in 1962 and the result has not yet been released, the 2019 Kenya’s population and household census might face a similar fate.

 Mr Guleid is the Executive Director of the Frontier Counties Development Council

Population census2019 population censusservice delivery2019 censusCommission of Revenue Allocations