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20 civil registration officers arrested in fight against illegal birth certification

By Eric Wainaina
Friday, November 1st, 2019
In summary

Twenty officers from the Department of Civil Registration Services were Friday arrested when detectives raided the agency’s headquarters at Bishop House, Nairobi, in an ongoing operation against extortion and issuance of illegal birth certificates. 

Those arrested included managers of the department.

The multi-agency team that conducted the raid was formed about two weeks ago. It also arrested four workers at St Francis Hospital for allegedly working in cahoots with Civil Registration officers to facilitate issuance of illegal birth certificates.

Those who were on the police radar included deputy director Paul Kagiri who has been in service for 30 years, Charles Akwani (principal records management officer), Charity Mwandime (principal civil registration officer) and her assistants Jane Wangari and Daniel Ngamba.

Also in the police list were other civil registration assistants, civil registration officers, an accountant, four senior clerical officers, seven clerical officers and an office assistant administrator. 

Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai said they are hunting down four other officials from the department as well as other people working in various hospitals across the city, who he said are part of “cartels aiding and abetting the irregular and illegal issuance of birth certificates”.

According to police, parents in hospitals are lured into paying the administrators an exorbitant fee so that birth certificates can be processed and distributed without scrutiny or authentication in a racket that primarily targets illegal immigrants seeking citizenship.

“Government services are not a conduit for brokers and criminals to enrich themselves by conning members of public. The police will not relent until each and every criminal is apprehended and faces the law,” the police boss said, adding that those arrested will be arraigned on Monday. 

The move came barely a week after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i stormed the department offices where he came face to face with the frustration which Kenyans seeking the services go through. 

Brokers, allegedly working in cahoots with officials in the department have been demanding "facilitation" fee from people seeking the mandatory documents for their children.

Matiang’i, who Friday together with this ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru visited Bishop House shortly after the arrests, said the government officials had turned public services into business whereby they demand bribes  to offer services that are supposed to be free. 

“What has since emerged is a deliberate effort to subvert services to genuine citizens so as to create avenues for corruption and issuance of these documents to illegal immigrants,” he said.

The CS said the National Police Service would deploy a senior police officer to man the headquarters, to ensure smooth running of activities.

“The kind of things that we see here where people come in the morning (in search of birth certificates) and leave at 5pm without the documents will not be tolerated," Matiang’i warned.

Mucheru said digitisation at the department was in top gear with a view to ensuring application process of birth certificates will be online.

He said they have implemented an overhaul of the system, which includes the people, processes, procedures, hardware and software to improve accountability and efficiency of service, leading to a 300 per cent increase in the speed of processing birth and death certificates.

Further, all Huduma Centre branches in Nairobi now have the capacity to print the documents and Kenyans will no longer have to visit the Department of Civil Registration offices to follow up or receive the papers.

Meanwhile, Nairobi Regional Commissioner Wilson Njega has said the government is digitising registration of births and deaths by transforming from the manual system to e-citizen system to make the exercise efficient and enhance integrity.

He said as one way to rid the exercise of corruption malpractices, the e-citizen portal will require those seeking the documents to make the application online and pay online after which they will have to present the electronic payment receipts to the registration centres for processing.

Speaking during a media briefing on Thursday, Njega said numerous complaints by members of the public seeking birth certificates prompted  Matiang’i to take action.

He said the CS, who has been visiting civil registration centres over the last one week, found anomalies whereby some individuals' applications have been pending since 2018 and early this year whereas those who applied last month have the certificates.

“Issuance of birth certificates has been problematic as applications have been pending unprocessed since last year,” said Njega.

He said the digitisation of civil registration system will begin in Nairobi and, thereafter, be rolled out to other parts of the country.

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