President Uhuru Kenyatta's government has suffered yet another blow in its Huduma Namba project valued at Ksh10.6 billion following a Court of Appeal ruling on Monday, March 7.
The decision was delivered after the government sought powers to continue issuing Huduma Namba cards to Kenyans to replace national identification cards.
But according to a three judge bench, the government is yet to provide a clear framework on the impact of its rollout to data protection policies.
The verdict was delivered by the bench consisting of justices Agnes Murgor, Mbogholi Msagha, and Imana Laibuta.
The bench further sided with Katiba Institute and Yash Pal Ghai that the State had moved to the court too late in the day.Kenyans line up to register for Huduma Number in April 2019File
"We agree with the respondents, and are persuaded, that the circumstances of the case before us do not call for stay of the order of mandamus as sought. To grant such orders would be in vain, as no orders of the kind sought can arrest the doing or undo what has already been done," the bench, headed by Justice Murgor, ruled.
The bench maintained that the government violated the law by rolling out Huduma Namba without conducting data protection impact assessment.
The latest ruling adds weight to a previous verdict delivered by Justice Jairus Ngaah in 2020 that rendered the cards null and void.
Huduma Namba was rolled out in 2020 with the government spending Ksh10.6 in the process. The project was seen as a major milestone to Kenyans seeking various government services.
The first recipients of the new cards were President Uhuru Kenyatta and first lady Margaret Kenyatta.
But various court cases have thrown the project funded by taxpayers money in disarray, with a number of decisions going against the government.
"The order of certiorari (review) is hereby issued to bring into this honourable court and to quash the respondent’s decision of November 18, 2020, to roll out Huduma Card for being ultra vires Section 31 of the Data Protection Act, 2019," justice Ngaah ruled.
In compliance with the Court ruling, the government appointed Data Protection Commissioner Immaculate Kassait on November 6, 2021. But just days after her appointment, a lobby group Katiba institute presented their grievances arguing that the government did not provide guarantee against theft or misuse of personal information.
They also questioned failure to register Kenyans afresh and conduct data protection assessment as stipulated in the Constitution.
Katiba institute which has triumphed in court in a number of cases against the government further stated that the President Uhuru-led administration ought to have enacted data protection law first, then amend the Registration of Persons Act before rolling out the Huduma Namba exercise.
The card was expected to be fully operational by December 2021 replacing national identification cards stated ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru.
"There is an enemy called the file which we are trying to get rid of in public service. The days of lost files, long queues and wastage of time instead of providing efficient service to citizens will be a thing of the past," Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i stated during its launch.President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret display new Huduma Cards at Gusii Stadium on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.Filearrest
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