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IDEMIA blacklisting won’t affect Huduma Namba registration – Mucheru

Information and Communication Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has said in a statement the exercise dubbed Huduma Namba which has seen about 15 million persons registered so far will proceed as planned/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 25 – The government has assured that the ongoing listing of citizens and foreigners on a digital master population database will not be affected by an ongoing parliamentary process seeking to blacklist a foreign firm contracted to supply electronic devices for the exercise.

Information and Communication Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru said in a statement issued on Thursday the exercise dubbed Huduma Namba which has seen about 15 million persons registered so far will proceed as planned.

He vouched for the architectural integrity of some 35,000 devices supplied by IDEMIA, a French multinational formerly known as OT-Morpho, saying software embedded in the gadgets was locally sourced.

“The Information Technology structure of the National Integrated Identity Management System (NIIMS) features a robust architecture. The core registration software and associated infrastructure was engineered and integrated by local software engineers,” Mucheru stated.

“The 35,000 MorphoTablet 2 data capture kits were the only hardware component supplied by IDEMIA. The kits were acquired on an outright purchase basis, and as such there’s no existing contract beyond this. Therefore, the directions by the National Assembly do not affect Huduma Namba in any way,” he added.

National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale on Tuesday led legislators in championing for a damning report by the Public Accounts Committee seeking to have IDEMIA blacklisted for contravening provisions of the Companies Act (2015), his Ruaraka colleague TJ Kajwang supporting the move.

“What IDEMIA is doing in Kenya, they cannot do in Paris or even in the Unites States,” Duale remarked during a debate in the House.

“This is the law. Let us follow it because when this company was doing procurement they knew this is the law. Their lawyers should have told them so,” Kajwang opined.

Section 982 (1) of the Act forbids a foreign company from carrying out business in the country “unless the company has lodged with the Registrar for registration a notice containing the prescribed particulars” of its business address.

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Lawmakers faulted the French firm for failing to register a local business address as required in law, an offence that can attract up to Sh500,000 in fine under Section 982 (5) of the Act.

Nambale’s Sakwa Bunyasi also faulted the French technology firm for contravening the law, the lawmaker recommending a ten-year ban.

“We should not in any way as a country lean towards a banana republic where multinationals can walk in and out of the of the country with tones of money without following due process,” he said.

Ugenya’s David Ochieng, and Luanda’s Christopher Omulele faulted the Interior ministry for awarding a contract to IDEMIA in complete disregard of the law.

“It’s not just IDEMIA. So many companies could be doing business in this country without complying and that may easily make this country fall into a serious tornado of legal disputes,” Ochieng said.

Omulele warned: “This company should have registered within our jurisdiction; if it did not then it cannot be excused by this Parliament. This is the very Parliament that made the Company law that requires that companies must have a footprint into this country before entering into contracts such as the one they entered with the election body.”

While debating the Public Accounts Committee report on Tuesday, the National Assembly unanimously adopted an amendment recommending criminal investigations against the firm over its role in the 2017 election when it supplied in excess of 40,000 electronic voter identification kits.

Several audits including Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s internal audit had raised a number of questions regarding lucrative contracts awarded to the firm.

The poll agency’s Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba was dismissed from the commission, IEBC Chairperson Wafula Chebukati saying Chiloba had failed to appear before a disciplinary committee to respond to audit queries.

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A few months to Chiloba’s axing, Vice-Chairperson Consolata Nkatha, Commissioners Paul Kurgat and Margaret Mwachanya announced their exit from the poll agency citing disunity and mistrust.

“The Commission Chairperson has failed to be the steady and stable hand that steers the ship in difficult times and give direction when needed,” Commissioner Mwachanya announced in April last year.

“Under his leadership, the Commission boardroom has become a venue for peddling misinformation, grounds for brewing mistrust, and a space for scrambling for and chasing for individual glory and credit,” the three said.

The resignations came against the backdrop of a decision by Chebukati, Commissioner Boya Molu, and Yakub Guliye to send Chiloba on a forced leave following a majority vote at a plenary session boycotted by Vice-Chairperson Nkatha and Commissioner Kurgat.

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