Data protection waiver to spy on tax cheats

data protection Act

The Finance Bill proposes to amend the Data Protection Act, 2019.

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The Treasury is seeking exemption for the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to access sensitive personal data such as details of properties owned and bank accounts without a court warrant.

The Finance Bill proposes to amend the Data Protection Act, 2019 to allow the KRA unfettered access to sensitive information held by data controllers and processors, including banks, telecoms operators, utilities, schools, land registries and the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA).

The Bill also proposes to integrate the databases of these data controllers and processors with the KRA’s digital system, known as the i-tax, in a far-reaching move that legal practitioners have described as “worrying.”

Some organisations, including the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) and Amnesty International Kenya, an NGO, want this provision expunged from the Bill. Those who want the clause rejected said it limits the right to privacy by individuals.

In a presentation before the Finance Committee, Amnesty together with Article 19 Eastern Africa, another non-governmental organisation, asked the National Assembly to reject the proposed amendment, noting that the blanket exemption from data protection will be prone to abuse by the government.

“Article 24 [of the Constitution] provides for the limitation of rights and fundamental freedoms in Kenya. It requires that any limitation to fundamental rights and freedoms be reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society based on human dignity, equality, and freedom, considering all relevant factors. Simply, for the right to privacy to be limited, it still must satisfy the criteria laid down in the Constitution,” said the two organisations.

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