MPs call for special audit on Huduma Namba deal

Uhuru and Margaret Kenyatta receive Huduma Namba cards during the 11th Mashujaa Day celebrations at Gusii Stadium, Kisii County. [PCS]

A House team is now calling on the office of the Auditor General to conduct a special audit on the billions spent on the Huduma Namba initiative and establish whether there was value for money.

National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee is pushing for the audit after it emerged that the Ministry of Interior was yet to pay Sh184 million in pending bills towards the project that flopped.

This came to light after Interior Principal Secretary Raymond Omollo appeared before the watchdog committee to answer audit queries for the 2021/2022 financial year.

The nominated MP John Mbadi-led committee sought to know whether the Huduma Namba project, which is set to be replaced by the recently announced Digital ID, was beneficial to Kenyans and what measures had been put in place to avoid wastage of public funds.

“We would like to know how much has been spent on Huduma Namba so far and whether taxpayers will get value for money,” said Soy MP David Kiplagat.

The PS was, however, at pains to answer the question, noting that an audit into the matter would be of help to establish whether indeed the country and Kenyans benefited from the deal.

“I am unable to competently answer whether there was value for money but maybe a special audit can be conducted to ascertain this,” said Omollo.

Mbadi, bowing to pressure, implored Auditor General Nancy Gathungu to open an inquest into the matter.

“As a committee, we will be asking the Auditor-General to conduct a special audit into the Huduma Namba with the aim of establishing exactly how much was spent and whether there was value for money,” said Mbadi. The Huduma Namba project was launched in 2019 and up to Sh10 billion had been spent by December 2022.

As of 2021, approximately Sh9.6 billion has been used towards the initiative. And in the 2021/22 financial year, a further Sh1 billion was allocated for the second phase.

 According to government records, 37.7 million Kenyans were registered using 31,500 kits on 52 mass registration days. To date, however, millions are yet to be issued with the cards. Admittedly, the project faced numerous challenges such as network issues, a lack of documents, several court cases, fake news, and a last-minute conception and implementation.

President William Ruto has however, in the recent past, claimed that the country lost Sh15 billion in the implementation of the Huduma Namba project.

In June this year, Ruto termed the project “a complete fraud” right before announcing that his administration would be embarking on a similar digital identity drive.

“That Huduma Namba was a complete fraud because we lost almost Ksh.15 billion and got very little out of it,” said Ruto. The Huduma Namba digital ID was supposed to be a unique and permanent Personal Identification Number randomly assigned to every resident individual at birth or upon registration/enrolment and would only expire or be retired upon the death of the individual.

The government has since commenced efforts to launch the digital Identity project aimed at easing access to government services for Kenyans. The comprehensive registry that government would rely on to effectively manage the country and employ during resource allocation.