William Ruto, Raila Odinga allies unite to support Huduma Namba Bill

Last year, the High Court declared the Sh10 billion rollout of Huduma Namba illegal. [File, Standard]

Deputy President William Ruto and ODM leader Raila Odinga’s allies in Parliament have joined forces to demand that the government speeds up the issuance of Huduma Namba cards in the country.

The MPs unanimously supported Huduma Namba Bill 2021 which is in the second reading and termed the document important.

The State is seeking to pass the Huduma Namba Bill 2021 to unlock an impasse in the roll-out of Huduma Namba cards after the High Court declared them illegal as it was in conflict with the Data Protection Act.

Last year, the High Court declared the Sh10 billion rollout of Huduma Namba illegal.

Justice Jairus Ngaah ruled that the Government failed to conduct a data impact assessment before rolling out the cards which was in contravention of the Constitution.

The proposed law ropes in the provisions of the Data Protection Act in the processing of personal data under Huduma Namba which will enable one to access government services like applying for a driving license, ID, birth certificate, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) personal identification number among others.

Endebess MP Robert Pukose said the Bill should be fast-tracked and passed as it has important benefits for citizens. He however said that despite some of the good proposals, "there should be amendments to clarify the whole process and how it was rolled out."

"Apparently the Huduma Namba was rolled out before this law, it came with a lot of suspicions that we even saw the president officially launching the Huduma Namba, with questions on whether we lost any amount of money," he said.

Mr Pukose noted that the amendments include, getting rid of the deadline for applications, should it replace the national identity card, and reviewing the powers given to a Cabinet Secretary to revoke cards from the data system.

National Assembly Leader of Majority Amos Kimunya said the concerns raised by members will be addressed.

"I look forward to us processing the few amendments raised so that before we break for recess today, we can have this Bill in place," Mr Kimunya said. 

The MPs said that the card would ease logistical issues as one will not have to move from one office to another with piles of documents.

"Huduma services were meant to harmonise and synchronise the various data systems in this country. We need to be a country that has highly synchronised data so that we minimise moving from office to office," said Bomachoge Borobu MP Abel Ogutu.

Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo urged members to delink the issuance of the card to the upcoming General Election arguing that, "it has nothing to do with elections. It’s only those that are already fearing the outcome of the election that are having the said claims."

The Bill aims to reform Kenya’s identity ecosystem by establishing the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) which will be a primary database for foundational and functional data such as databases of voters, taxes and social services.

"The Act establishes NIIMS, which will operate as a single source of personal data for all citizens and resident individuals in Kenya. Its set up is guided by principles of Digital Object Architecture which includes three components namely: NIIMS Database, Huduma Namba and Huduma Card,” the Bill states.

It also seeks to repeal and harmonise several laws including the Births and Deaths Registration Act, the Registration of Persons Act, the Kenya Citizens and Foreign Nationals Management Service Act, 2011 (Service Act), the Marriage Act 2014, the Children Act, 2001, the Traffic Act; and the Tax Procedures Act 2015. 

MPs called for the passage of the Bill, saying amendments will be done later.

Already the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chair Wafula Chebuati has said that Huduma Namba will not be used in the August 9 polls.