Kenya: New Law to Make Huduma Namba Compulsory

Coastal residents register for Huduma Namba on May 17, 2019.

The Huduma Namba will serve as the official sufficient proof for identification in the country and its registration will now be mandatory for access to government services if the draft Huduma Bill 2019 is enacted by the National Assembly and signed into law by the President.

PRIMARY DATABASE

The Huduma card shall serve as the official government-issued document for identification and conduct of transactions.

This means that you will be required to have Huduma Namba to register as a voter, access universal healthcare, passport, apply for a driving licence, register a mobile phone number, pay taxes, transact in the financial markets and open a bank account.

Currently, the national Identity Card serves as the official identification mode upon which all these services are predicated. The proposal by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i will, however, require the approval of the Cabinet before being tabled in Parliament.

The registration of Huduma Namba shall be through the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) that will be a primary database for both foundational and functional data, from which every other database with personal data of residents in Kenya will be built. The databases include those of voters, taxes, and social services.

The proposal targets for amendment the Tax Procedures Act 2015, Kenya citizenship and Immigration Act 2011, Refugees Act 2006, National Hospital Insurance Fund Act 1988, Elections Act 2011, Marriage Act, 2014 and Children Act of 2001.

According to Dr Matiang'i, the passage of the bill will create an efficient identity system that will present opportunities for fiscal savings, development of the digital economy and enhanced public and private sector service delivery.

PROTECTED SYSTEM

Dr Matiang'i proposes "An Act of Parliament to establish the National Integrated Identity Management System to promote efficient delivery of public services, to consolidate and harmonise the law on registration of persons, to facilitate assigning of Huduma Namba and issuance of identity documents, (and) to facilitate registration of births and deaths."

Huduma Namba is a unique and permanent personal identification number assigned to every resident individual at birth or upon enrolment under the Act. It, however, says that no government agency shall collect foundational data from an individual who has enrolled under this Act.

"For avoidance of doubt, the NIIMS is a protected computer system within the meaning of the Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act," it says. Penalties for offences relating to a protected computer system is a Sh5 million or five years in jail or both.

In March this year, the High Court ruled that Huduma Namba registration should be voluntary and no one should be denied services. The government from February to May this year, undertook a voluntary Huduma Namba registration netting about 35 million Kenyans.

The registration of a company or a public benefit organisation, transfer or any dealings in land, electricity connection, access to the government housing scheme, marriage, public education, social protection services, register or a motor vehicle transfer or any other specified public service will also require the card.

Tampering with the card will attract a three-year jail term or Sh3 million fine or both. "A person who carries out or permits the carrying out of any transaction specified in section 8 without a Huduma Namba commits an offence," the proposed law says.

LITTLE UTILITY

The card will be issued in three categories: Minors who have attained the age of six years, adults who have attained the age of eighteen years and resident adult non-citizens.

A Huduma card shall include information on a person's full name, sex, date of birth, registration number, nationality or residence status, place of birth, front facing photograph and the date of issue.

According to the draft bill, one of the observed shortcomings on Kenya's identity ecosystem is the fact that the two identity modes, the foundational and functional, have little interoperability.

"Foundational systems are civil registrations meant to provide general identification for official purposes, such as a national ID, birth certificate and refugee registrations while functional systems are registrations for a particular service or transaction such as health cards, passports and driving licences, each relating to a particular agency."

The national Identity Card, despite having all the personal data details, including biometrics, has very little utility in functional areas.

The failure to have linkage between foundational and functional systems has led to duplication in registrations of persons, wastage of resources and diminution of trust in the identity ecosystem. This Bill seeks to reform the identity ecosystem.

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