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Why Huduma Namba is a big scandal waiting to happen


Let’s get some basics out of the way. The Huduma Namba initiative has nothing to do with delivering services to you. That much is obvious even to the most besotted government supporter.

There is no number on earth that can help a government deliver services better if that government has not been doing so or wants to do so.

The idea that this government, whose last six years in power have been characterised by mind-boggling corruption, law-defying impunity and absolutely basal incompetence has suddenly had a brainwave and is going to deliver better services to wananchi thanks to some numbering scheme is absolute madness.

With that out of the way, we can now speculate on the real motives behind this government-pushed initiative. If it is not designed to help deliver services and we know it is not, because this government has never been about service delivery - then what is it for?

The Latins have an excellent little phrase that one can employ in such cases. It is the deceptively simple 'cui bono?' which translates to 'to whom is it a benefit?'

Wananchi have no need for Huduma numbers, because they are drowning in state-issued numbers. The average adult Kenyan has an identity card with a supposedly unique number. There isn’t much you can do in Kenya without your identity card- can’t open a bank account, can’t buy property, can’t even marry without one.

But that’s just one number: before one receives an identity card, one needs a birth certificate, with its own unique number. These days, state schools will not even register kids who show up without their and their fathers’ birth certificates.

Kenyans also require PIN numbers for taxation purposes. The taxman wants to know about your money, so to buy a car, purchase land, transfer property from one person to another and so on, one needs a PIN number.

No one likes to sit around doing nothing, so those Kenyans lucky enough to own a car will need a driving licence, complete with its own supposedly unique number. That car comes with its own unique registration number. And, if the Kenyan wants to travel abroad, they need a passport. Of course, each passport has a unique passport number.

With all these state-issued numbers, it is a little disingenuous for the government to look to saddle us with yet another document, yet another unique number that we suddenly need if we want to access government services.

So, maybe the President should be upfront. He should look us squarely in the eye and tell us who it is that has snagged the tender for printing new Huduma cards.

Who will supply the database software? Who will 'eat' the computer hardware tender? Who will grab the multi-year, multi-billion-shilling system maintenance contract? Who will get paid? These are the people and companies who will benefit from this, and it is they that are driving this strange initiative.

While at it, the President could also tell us why he reckons we need a sixth unique number to access government services. What for? What can the Huduma number do that the average identity card number cannot? And if there is something wrong with ID card numbers – such as duplication thanks to election rigging moves – then why aren’t we fixing the issues with national ID cards?

Knowing how much government officials steal each time they try to roll out big projects, I can bet there is a big scam on this Huduna number.

We saw it with SGR, Galana kulalu irrigation scheme, Afya House scam, Dams, NYS, Laptop, KPLC Sh1B oil spill scandal.... The Huduma Number project will cost Sh6 billion, just before a Sh18 billion national census. All this being hurried at a time when Kenyans are dying of hunger.

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