Revealed: Ruto still has interest in Huduma Namba


When former President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta received their respective Huduma Namba cards during the 11th Mashujaa Day celebrations at Gusii Stadium, Kisii County. [PCS]

President William Ruto is still interested in Huduma Namba, despite declaring publicly the Sh15 billion project initiated by his predecessor President Uhuru Kenyatta was a fraud.

Dr Ruto was emphatic that taxpayers lost a total of Sh15 billion and the digital identification cards project achieved almost nothing.

“That Huduma Namba was a complete fraud because we lost almost Sh15 billion and got very little out of it,” Ruto said last year while unveiling some 5,000 digital government services on the e-Citizen Kenya Portal.

Ruto started his own pet project dubbed Maisha Namba.

With the new project rollout, it was expected that the Kenya Kwanza regime would withdraw a case on the Huduma Namba and move to a new route.

However, the Ministry of Interior’s application to file additional evidence in the Huduma case is an indicator that it is still interested in the project.

The ministry’s lawyer Njoroge Regeru told Court of Appeal judges that there was evidence to show that data collected from Kenyans would be stored safely.

 “A lot has happened to bolster the protection of Kenyans and foreigners. There are six documents indicating that the government can secure the collected data,” argued Regeru.

The case pits the Ministry of Interior, the Attorney General on one hand and the Nubian Community, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, Katiba Institute on the other.

At the heart of the case is whether the system that the Jubilee regime had acquired - the National Integrated Identity Management System (Niims) was secure.

In this case, the government wants to prove that Niims is foolproof.

On the other hand, the Nubian Rights lobby argues that Niims is based on a flawed design and a risk to the right to privacy.

 The lobby’s lawyer Yussuf Bashir faulted the High Court for allowing conditional implementation of Huduma Namba saying the Government is not interested in honouring the orders as it has already announced that it would roll out the remaining part of the project but has not met the caveat set by the court.

 “Because of the failure by the High Court to expressly find the design of Niims was flawed and the entirety of the amendments to the registration of persons Act which establishes Niims were unconstitutional, there is an imminent risk that the rights of Kenyans and those of foreign nationals residing in Kenya will be irreparably violated,” argued Bashir.

In the High Court, the lobby had called an expert witness, Anand Venkatanatayanan, who termed Kenya’s system as archaic.

Anand said the system gave two different results to the same person and the failure by a similar project in India was among the reasons Kenyans would not benefit from the expensive project. The witness testified that he is an expert in cyber security and computer fraud forensic analysis and has worked for 21 years.

According to Anand, the infrastructure behind the Kenyan system is bound to fail data protection tests and will be prone to leaks.

 In the appeal, Bashir said Justices Pauline Nyamweya, Weldon Korir and Mumbi Ngugi did not pronounce themselves on the viability of the project.

He argued that the three judges erred in law by failing to analyse the safety of Niims.

He also faulted the law upon which the project is anchored on saying it could not effectively address the concerns by Kenyans on their data.

Before the High Court, the State disputed the same, saying the Interior Ministry was collecting information from other government agencies and storing the same in centralised server.

The information which includes mobile phone number, personal email, profession, whether one is involved in agriculture and what acreage of land one has, will be stored in one server as it is scattered all over government agencies.

“This is a completely harmless exercise. We are consolidating information held by various agencies,” argued State lawyer Njoroge Regeru.

The High Court cleared the government to implement the project but with a condition that it put in place regulations on how to run Niims and how to protect collected data.