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MPs call for suspension of Kenyans registration into SHIF

 Health CS Susan Nakhumicha. [File, Standard]

Members of Parliament have called for the suspension of registrations of Kenyans into the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) until the Ministry of Health discloses the company it has contracted to conduct the exercise to safeguard the data.

Members of the National Assembly Health Committee during a meeting involving the Social Health Authority (SHA) Board and the outgoing National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) Board expressed concerns that while registration of Kenyans started last month, the process is shrouded in secrecy and in violation of the Data Protection Act.

Kitutu Chache South MP Anthony Kibagendi complained about the lack of transparency surrounding the system employed by SHA to enroll Kenyans.

“The system used by the Social Health Authority to register Kenyans to the new health scheme is shrouded in secrecy. We do not know the name of the IT firm being used, the associated costs and the amount of data already acquired, at face value, this appears to be a breeding ground for corruption,” said Kibagendi.

Committee Chairman Robert Pukose sought clarification on whether the website https://sha.go.ke/ already operational was indeed the new ICT system.

Health Principal Secretary Harry Kimtai who was present at the meeting at Parliament Buildings, Nairobi, told the committee that the ICT system was currently undergoing a testing process and that once it is complete, registration will commence based on the new system approved by SHA before proceeding with any contracts.

“I would like to confirm that is a system that has been shared with Social Health Authority, however, we are currently in the testing phase to determine whether it meets the set requirements or not,” he said.

Dr Pukose accused the PS of attempting to cover up, asserting that it would be untrue to claim that no contract had been awarded while the vendor was already piloting and registration of clients was going on.

The MP emphasized the importance of the Data Protection Act, saying it was worrying that somebody who has not been given a contract was already.

“I do not think we can proceed with the discussion on the ICT system. We need a special session to revisit this issue because we must ensure every piece of information entering this system is properly procured,” said Pukose.

Nyeri Town MP Duncan Mathenge wondered whether SHA had sought the approval of the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) before opting for a special procurement.

Mathenge emphasized the legal framework, noting that while the Act permits the Health Cabinet Secretary to approve valuations by the board, it raises concerns regarding expenditures not budgeted for.

The Nyeri Town MP sought to know whether the law allows the Ministry of Health or SHA which is inheriting NHIF to incur such unforeseen expenses.

“Where is the money coming from, have you invoked Section 225 of the Constitution that allows expenditure for unforeseen circumstances? Let us realise the position under which this procurement is being undertaken,” said Mathenge.

He urged the PS to provide the committee with full disclosure regarding the source of financing and if it was not coming from the exchequer who is the alternate financier.

Kimutai however declined to disclose details of the contracts to the committee saying it will be premature to reveal the name of the vendor and the contract sum at the moment promising to give a comprehensive statement on the matter later.

Section 47 of the Social Health Insurance Fund (SHIF) Act requires that digitisation and processes be done using appropriate, reliable, secure, inter-operable, verifiable and responsive technology through an information system.

The processes and services shall include - registration of members, member identification, contributions to the Fund, empanelling of facilities, execution of contracts, member identification, notification and preauthorization, claims management and settlement of claims.

It states that every Kenyan shall be uniquely identified for purposes of the provision of health services and the digitisation of processes and services shall conform to the provisions of the Data Protection Act, (No. 24 of 2019) and all other relevant laws.

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