Letters

Expand bio listing to curb procurement fraud

huduma

An officer sorts Huduma cards at the National Registration Bureau in Nyeri town on April 28, 2021. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NMG

Summary

  • According to the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), about 8.7 million Kenyans have already collected their Huduma cards and 11.3 million cards have already been printed from the 37.8 million registered Kenyans at a cost of Sh10.6 billion.

In October this year, the High Court pronounced itself on the issuance of Huduma cards and stopped its rollout due to what it termed as violation of the Data Protection Act, 2019. The court in its ruling revealed that the government had collected citizens’ personal data in contravention to the personal data protection Act.

According to the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), about 8.7 million Kenyans have already collected their Huduma cards and 11.3 million cards have already been printed from the 37.8 million registered Kenyans at a cost of Sh10.6 billion.

Huduma Number is a biometric mass registration system that was conducted by NIIMS to collect biometric data from citizens, and residents after which the system was to generate a unique number “Huduma Number” which was to enable one to access various government services.

Biometric registration is a practice that is gradually seeping into most organisations and governments across the globe to secure and restrict access to institution’s facilities, protect and manage confidential information, reduce fraud by identifying key stakeholders and staff in those institutions.

Corruption is a global problem cutting across all institutions both public and private alike. Corruption undermines policies designed to encourage economic development.

The Kenya National Ethics and Anti-corruption policy (2018), defines fraud as any acts of deception, bribery, forgery, extortion, corruption, theft, conspiracy, embezzlement, misappropriation, false representation, concealment and collusion.

Corruption has a significant impact on the distribution of resources and services which are facilitated by the government. It hinders the government’s objectives and makes people suffer. On the face value, corruption may not look like a big problem, however, when it is spread in the entire system, it has the ability to derail the progress of a nation if not stopped.

A survey done by EACC in 2017 revealed that a significant percentage of businesses pay bribes to public officials repeatedly to gain favor. In May 2016, the government put on notice several state corporations for massive misappropriation of funds.

A Global Fund Audit Report on the National Tuberculosis, Leprosy, and Lung Disease Programme (NTLDP) found that from the period of 2014-2016 fraudulent per diems valued at KES 583,000 (US$5,744) were given to people who had not attended activities within the Ministry of Health.

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) audit in 2016 revealed that donor money meant to provide vaccines for children could not be accounted for, reflecting possible misuse of these funds.

According to Kenya Legal and ethical issues network (KELIN) report, the Ministry of Health in 2018 procured 37 CT scanners at an inflated cost of Sh227 million per unit while the market price at the time was between Sh40-45 million under a deal between the Kenyan and Chinese governments.

The Arror and Kimwarer dam Scandal, the Kenya power procurement scandal, the KEMSA scandal. These and many more scandals indicate a loophole in the public procurement system in the country.

A part from leaving irrefutable audit trails which can prove and confirm a user’s identity, biometrics registration can be used to eliminating fraudulent activities hence bringing a greater degree of accountability and transparency in the procurement process.

Introducing biometric authentication into the procurement process may hinder unauthorized users of the system from accessing and manipulating the system and allow only authorized users to circumnavigate. The Biometric system only allows the users fingerprint, voice or any biometric characteristic for identification to unlock an account and initiate a procurement process.

In Kenya, a number of institutions have embraced the biometric system including Hospitals, Banks, Insurance companies, Schools and a few State Corporations. The national hospital insurance Fund (NHIF) for instance rolled out a successful mass biometric registration as it migrated from the use of its analogue NHIF card and national identity card as the mode of identification both which have provided loopholes for fraudulent claims.

The scheme has previously been hit by fraudulent claims of people using fake identities to seek medical care and hospitals processing false claims.

According to the (US Congressional Report,2020), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has fully implemented a Biometric registration entry system as part of the primary inspection at U.S. Point of Entries.

The system has helped curb fraud and assist in barring criminals from entry into their country. The use of Biometric registration system in the United States of America (USA), has been a success especially in identifying and evaluating foreigners seeking entry into USA.

The High court of Kenya should reconsider its ruling on the issuance of Huduma cards to help in the fight against graft and crime in Kenya.

Otieno Panya, Lecturer and Trainer in Procurement and Contract Management, Jomo Kenyatta University (JKUAT)