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Sh1bn budget cut delays Huduma Namba cards rollout

A cash hitch has delayed the release of Huduma Namba cards after the Treasury slashed the budget allocated for biometric mass registration
A cash hitch has delayed the release of Huduma Namba cards after the Treasury slashed the budget allocated for biometric mass registration by Sh1 billion despite opposition from the Interior Ministry. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A cash hitch has delayed the release of Huduma Namba cards after the Treasury slashed the budget allocated for biometric mass registration by Sh1 billion despite opposition from the Interior Ministry.

The ministry yesterday petitioned the National Assembly’s Security Committee to reinstate the Sh1 billion budget, warning that printing of the cards was at stake after the Treasury took away the money through a supplementary budget that is before MPs for approval. The supplementary budget seeks to slash recurrent expenditure by Sh5.6 billion following a shortfall in revenue collection.

Among the “critical areas proposed for additional funding…. (is the) Sh1 billion to print the Huduma Namba cards,” the Interior ministry said in a notice to MPs through principal secretary Karanja Kibicho. The notice was in response to the Treasury’s decision to cut the budget.

The tussle between the Treasury and the Interior Ministry looks set to delay the printing of the Huduma Namba cards following the fresh mass registration drive that ended in May. Known as the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS), the drive was to eventually lead to the issuance of new digital identity cards for all Kenyan residents – citizens and foreigners alike.

Under NIIMS, the State collated and was to combine all the various identity document numbers, including the national ID, passport, driver’s licence, National Social Security Fund and the National Hospital Insurance Fund numbers.

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This, the State said, would help improve service delivery to citizens. Although Kenyans were free to opt out of the registration, there is a possibility that they could be denied government services once the system is rolled out.

Those registered provided a photo, information about themselves and their parents or guardians. Also required were details like the place of birth, phone number, e-mail address, physical and permanent residence and marital status.

The drive was to cost taxpayers Sh5.7 billion.

Official data shows that more than 37 million people had registered before the May 21 deadline, leaving about 11 million.

Parliament is expected to issue a verdict on the budget’s review before December 5 when the House will break for its Christmas recess.

The Treasury had on November 12 sought MPs’ approval to increase spending by 2.8 percent or Sh86 billion to Sh3.13 trillion in the 2019/20 Budget, a parliamentary document shows. It wants Sh85.5 billion for spending on development projects and an additional Sh6.5 billion for counties in a review of the Budget that will reduce recurrent expenditure by Sh5.6 billion, including the Sh1 billion slashed from the Huduma Namba allocation.

The cuts on recurrent expenditure follow an order from the Treasury for ministries to slash budgets for travel, advertising and trainings, which the government said were examples of wasteful spending. The review of the Budget comes in a period when the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has missed tax collection targets in a business environment plagued by job cuts and reduced corporate profits.

The Treasury says Kenya experienced tax shortfalls of Sh60.2 billion in the three months to September and internal revenues from items like fines, payments for passports and marriage fees were below target by Sh24.4 billion.



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