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Economy

Senate committee orders suspension of biometric listing

Johnson Sakaja
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NMG 

A Senate Committee has ordered suspension of the collection of data from Kenyan citizens under National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS).

This was after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, his ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru and Attorney-General Kihara Kariuki failed to appear in Parliament to offer answers regarding the system.

Senators faulted the manner in which government introduced the exercise, saying it is a serious threat to fundamental rights of Kenyans.

“We are determining that until they (CSs and the AG) find it worthwhile to be accountable to the Senate, the process be suspended,” said Senate National Security, Defence and Foreign Relations Committee chairman Johnson Sakaja.

Piloting of the NIIMS kicked off on February 19 in 15 counties ahead of a mass roll out of the programme that begins on March 15, up to the end of April.

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The 15 counties are Kisii, Kisumu, Wajir Nairobi, Uasin Gishu, Kajiado, Baringo, Marsabit, Embu, Makueni, Busia, Nyandarua, Kiambu, Kilifi and Tana River.

Kenyans will be required to register to access services such as applying for an identity card, passport or driving licence or a birth certificate.

Part of the concerns raised regarding the Huduma Number include its legal basis, transparency concerns and the infringement on human rights.

The government introduced the law through a miscellaneous amendment Bill and amid a lack of legislation on data protection.

“We appreciate that the exercise concerns national security but it should not be used as an avenue to abuse our human rights,” said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei

The Senators declined to take responses from Interior Chief Administrative Secretary Patrick Ntutu who had been sent to represent Dr Matiangi.

Instead, they ordered that the CS, Mr Mucheru and Mr Kihara appear in person to explain NIIMS.

“We do not take it kindly that Interior PS is busy answering questions regarding Huduma Number on radio and TV but cannot appear before 30 Senators of the Republic of Kenya,” said Mr Sakaja.

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