President William Ruto’s government has signalled the end of the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), well known as Huduma Namba, with a deep budget cut of Sh574 million.
In the new mini budget tabled before the National Assembly by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, this is a reduction of 84 percent from the allocation of Sh680 million for the previous regime's controversial system that seeks to consolidate all the primary data on Kenyans into a single database.
Huduma Namba, one of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s signature projects, has been mired in controversy, with some human rights activists fearing that it was an avenue for the government to intrude into people’s privacy by, for example, collecting DNA and GPS information.
However, the uptake of Huduma Namba cards has been low amid fear of privacy breaches with the governments of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Ruto being forced to scale down the allocation for NIIMS.
“There is no Kenyan being forced to register, the Huduma Namba is about service but Kenyans who decide they do not want the convenience, it is their choice,” said the former Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho in April 2019.
A three-bench court in 2019, while allowing for the fresh roll-out of the Huduma Cards, barred the State from collecting citizen’s DNA, forcible listing and locking out the unregistered from government services.
In the Supplementary Budget for 2022/23, the National Treasury has slashed the allocation for Huduma Namba cards by Sh431,031,095 out of the Sh500 million that it had been allocated.
In March last year, the former National Treasury CS Ukur Yatani slashed the Huduma Namba budget by half as Kenyans failed to pick up the controversial biometric identification cards.
Parliament cut the budget for the roll-out of the ID cards to Sh500 million from the Sh1 billion that the Treasury had set in the first supplementary budget for 2021/22.
The government has so far spent more than Sh10 billion in the exercise, which in September 2021 saw it issue only 7.3 million cards even as it sought to withdraw the national identity cards.
NIIMS is supposed to save biometrics (fingerprints and facials), demographic and physical details of Kenyans and registered foreigners and will also help the government to verify the actual number of civil servants.
The Huduma Namba Bill 2021 aims to curb the unlawful use of information like names, dates of birth, postcode and residences.
The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) in March last year wanted Parliament to amend the proposed law to allow it to access data in the race to nab tax cheats.
The taxman wanted the proposed law to include access to data that is beyond the acquisition of legal information such as identity cards or passports.
This access will allow the taxman to capture individuals who are above 18 years who are not paying their fair share of taxes.
The Huduma Namba card ID holders will automatically be listed as taxpayers once they attain the age of 18 years and be required to pay taxes.