A former MP who introduced the radical legislation that allows government to get DNA samples in registration of persons has defended the law as progressive in solving the country’s security challenges.
Mr Charles Mutisya Nyamai, the immediate former MP for Kitui Rural, says he was inspired by a desire to end the difficulties Kenyans undergo in acquiring and keeping multiple forms of identification documents while moving the Unified National Identification System Bill, 2014.
He says he benchmarked with several developed countries including the United States, Chile, South Africa, Canada, Nigeria, Australia and India and came up with the law that makes the management of national affairs easier.
Once the new law is fully implemented, Mr Nyamai argues the new population registration system will be the authentic single source of truth on personal identity in Kenya and will also save the country billions of shillings spent in conducting voter registration and the national census.
President Uhuru Kenyatta announced this week that Kenyans will be registered digitally and given unique identification numbers containing their personal data, in the next phase of implementation of the law.
The President said the registration will be done after the completion of a central population database, which will be an authentic source of truth on personal data in Kenya.
Mr Kenyatta said county commissioners will oversee the registration.
On the face of it, the bill sought to introduce the issuance of multi-purpose identity cards and for connected purposes where a person’s details including tax, travel, medical cover, education, social security and driving licences which are captured in different documents are consolidated.
However, the trove of personal data for Kenyans allowed under the law, which Mr Nyamai spearheaded also, include DNA and dental profiles and GPS locations.
Section 9 of the law gives the National Registration Bureau powers to request for any information or data from any person on matters relating to management of country’s affairs.
“Any registered person in respect of whom an entry is made in the database shall be identified using unique and unambiguous features such as fingerprints and other biometric information” reads Section 16 (1) of the law.
This has effectively widened the scope in registration where the government will require Kenyans to provide details that have not been captured before, in the fresh rapid registration drive of all its citizens.
Similar measures in other countries have raised concerns over violations of human rights, ethics and possible breach of privacy.
President Kenyatta told regional commissioners and police commanders at State House Mombasa that for each registration, the National Integrated Management System (Nims) will generate a unique identification number which will be known as a Huduma (service) number.
“This will enhance the progress made by the Integrated Population Registration System. My administration will complete a central master population database which will be the authentic ‘single source of truth’ on personal identity in Kenya,” he said.
The former lawmaker defended the law saying it will be a lot easier in future for various government agencies including law enforcement units, Kenya Revenue Authority, National Hospital Insurance Fund, National Social Security Fund, Immigration department and Lands registry to manage their operations more effectively.
In an interview with the Sunday Nation, the ex-MP said that by adopting the bill, he said Kenya joined the league of developed countries that use advanced technology to solve complex crimes, including terrorism, murder, rape, fraud and even tax evasion.
“At the touch of a button, the database established under the law gives sufficient information any agency will require about an individual, that is stored various registries, including that on birth and death, marriage and divorce, citizenship, passports and aliens” said Mr Nyamai.
On the possible requirement for DNA profiles in registration, Mr Nyamai said this will be help police resolve complex crimes faster and save the country funds wasted in using outdated technologies.
He likened the new law to the one being used by Chile where once a birth is registered, the data captured is used throughout one’s life, making it unnecessary for citizens to register again as voters.
“This law is good for the country and that’s why the government has started implementing it. The details will be linked and relayed in real time to all government agencies,” he explained.
Mr Nyamai said the information will also help banks detect impersonation and fraud and eliminate election malpractices since dead voters in the IEBC roll will be deleted automatically.
The system, which some agencies are already using, was tested for a year before it was launched four years ago.
By 2015, it had data on more than 16 million Kenyans and 200,000 refugees. It has been described as a single source of truth.
After the bill was unanimously passed by parliament and assented to law by President Kenyatta, it paved way for radical changes in registration of persons, right from birth, and an elaborate adoption of the web-based data management programme by the Education ministry.
The National Education Management Information System (Nemis) helps the government to streamline management of learners and their education institutions by collecting their data right from pre-school.
Mr Nyamai is an accountant who held senior finance positions at organisations including Coca Cola, Kenya Railways and Kemsa before his election in 2007.
He served for two consecutive terms in parliament and was narrowly defeated by current MP Boni Mwalika in the 2017 elections.