Huduma centres are undoubtedly among the few projects implemented by the Jubilee Government that have struck the right chord with Kenyans. But they now face an uncertain future as the State holds back funding.
The Government has also delayed putting in place an institutional framework that would guarantee the project’s continued existence, with the Huduma Kenya Programme currently running on political goodwill, which denies it a long-term outlook as well as much needed independence.
The centres, which aimed to bring Government services closer to the people, have over time seen their budgetary allocation whittled down from a high of over Sh2.6 billion in 2014 to Sh500 million in the last financial year.
This has resulted in a drop in the quality of service offered at the centres as Huduma Kenya struggles to pay suppliers, including Internet service providers (ISPs) that have in the past denied service to some centres and caused severe service interruption.
Huduma centres are heavily reliant on Internet connectivity.
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The lower funding is also despite the growth of the centres from 24 in the 2014/15 financial year to 52 in the 2018/19 financial year.
“While the number of Huduma centres has continued to grow, the recurrent budget allocation to Huduma Kenya Programme has continued to decline annually,” said the Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs in a recent status report.
According to the ministry, underfunding has led to increased service disruptions due to disconnections by ISPs, failure to repair broken down equipment and increasingly poor work and service environment.
The centres offer more than 86 Government services including issuance of birth certificates and national identity cards, access to National Hospital Insurance Fund and National Social Security Fund services as well as the issuance of police abstracts and certificates of good conduct.
The ministry now wants National Treasury to give Huduma centres additional funding of Sh533 million in the recurrent budget and Sh323 million in the development budget in the Supplementary Budget to fund critical activities.
This would reduce the “risk of compromised service quality from poor staff responsiveness and risk of litigation due to non-payment of suppliers”.
It also wants the ICT ministry to provide free Internet connectivity to all Huduma centres by hooking them to the National Optic Fibre Backbone Infrastructure, which would “ease the financial burden and avert service interruptions”.
Huduma Kenya also continues to operate without an institutional framework and its continued existence is largely due to political goodwill.
This is despite a Cabinet decision in July 2014 to set up Huduma Kenya Secretariat as a State agency, which was later gazetted.
“The Cabinet in a decision in July 2014 approved the establishment of the Huduma Kenya Secretariat as a semi-autonomous Government agency to improve efficiency in decision making and execution of the programme activities,” says the Public Service ministry.
“A task force comprising of the State Law Office, National Treasury and the State Corporation Advisory Committee developed a legal notice for the formation of the Huduma Kenya Agency through an Executive Order. The legal notice is yet to be executed.”