Angered by Matiang’i no-show, senators want Huduma Namba suspended

A clerk registers Water Principal Secretary Joseph Irungu for the NIIMIS at Kangaru in Embu County on February 20. A Senate committee wants the process suspended. [Joseph Muchiri, Standard]

The ongoing Sh6 billion biometric registration of Kenyans that began in 15 counties this month risks suspension.

This, after the Senate security committee probing the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS)  today, directed the government to suspend the project.

Agitated senators were angered by Interior CS Fred Matiang'i’s and his ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru’s failure to appear before them to clarify issues on the rollout of NIIMS.

The committees vice chair, Johnson Sakaja read out sections of the constitution that mandate them to carry out the probe and wondered why the CSs, who received summon letters a week, earlier failed to show up.

“Article 125 of the Constitution says Parliament has the power to summon any person and to enforce their attendance and to compel production of documents whether one is in or out of the country,” he said.

Sakaja, who accused the cabinet secretaries of delaying tactics, read out article 153 of the Constitution to CSs that stipulated their roles and accountabilities.

“…a cabinet secretary shall attend before a committee of the National Assembly or the Senate when required and answer any question for any matter they are responsible for,” he sternly said.

The Senators now want CS Fred Matiang’i, CS Joe Mucheru and Attorney General Paul Kihara to appear before them Monday, March 11 in person without fail.

“This morning the PS of Interior is at a local radio station but cannot appear before 30 senators, the Office of The Attorney-General is saying they have a meeting at 10 am which we are also attending. We were here since 7 am,” Sakaja fumed.

The senators recommended the registration project to be suspended until a discussion is held with them.

Where it all began

The row over the project started when questions were raised about its necessity and overlapping roles as Kenya was in the process of conducting a census that will have similar data.

Its Sh6-billion cost too came under scrutiny as it included buying biometric machines that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEB) already had.

The government has, however, defended it as an updated database that would link information held by various State agencies to inform national planning.

They maintain the registration is expected to ensure real-time update of data, which could, in the future, eliminate the need for periodic registration of voters and national censuses.  

Kenyans will be required to provide information that is in an identification document, which could be a birth certificate, national identity card, driving licence, Kenya Revenue Authority personal identification card (PIN), NHIF, NSSF cards, and passport numbers.

A digital picture, name, gender, date of birth, age, citizenship, information about parents or guardians, place of birth, phone number, education level, employment status, email address, physical and permanent residence and marital status are some of the details to be captured.