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High stakes of August census kicks up storm

Rotich tells politicians to refrain from criticising Sh18.5 billion exercise, let KNBS do a professional job

Fred Aminga @faminga

This year’s national census has raised temperatures among politicians as they take hard-line positions to champion their vested interests and poke  holes on the exercise.

Unlike the 2009 count, numbers of this year’s exercise will be used by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to review constituencies and other boundaries next year. The data will also be used in determining revenue sharing among counties.

Leaders across the political divide have called for fair distribution of national resources based on population density and economic productivity. This informs the heated criticism of the exercise on grounds that the 2009 census was doctored to increase or reduce the population of some communities.

But leaders have been warned against politicising the Sh18.5 billion census to be held during the night of August 24 and 25.

Speaking yesterday about Kenya’s first-ever digital counting session, Treasury Cabinet secretary Henry Rotich asked politicians to give Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KBNS) a break to conduct the count without criticising it.

“Stop comparing political numbers,” Rotich said yesterday, adding that KNBS is using international standards on transparency and integrity to collect and process data. With the 2022 politics taking premature shape, this year’s count is likely to be more contentious and politicians are already raising various issues.

Those suspicious of the outcome have raised concerns, some quoting the 2009 which adjusted the population from the initial 38.6 million people to 37.7 million.

Data from eight sub-counties were contested, as the then Minister for Planning Wycliffe Oparanya tabled revised post census figures in Parliament showing that numbers in the sub counties were inflated in the 2009 population count. The figures read that two regions had 2.35 million people but the then Minister’s figures read 1.3 million people as the actual population size.

While these concerns have had politicians wagging fingers, some even castigating the use of technology to deliver the numbers, the CS has asked them to stay calm.

Smart gadgets

“Let us get the numbers, if you have a basis to challenge the data, then please tell them (KNBS) where they have information which isn’t accurate, but not politicisation,” said Rotich.

The event which takes place every 10 years will for the first time see KNBS use locally-assembled smart gadgets fitted with special software effectively replacing manually filled forms.

KNBS director general Zachary Mwangi said 164,700 devices would be procured in partnership with leading institutions under the digital learning programme. “We shall be using that framework to ensure we assemble the devices locally,” he said.

The shift to digital technology to deliver the data is supposed to enhance the delivery process while making it easy to verify data in case of disputes during data analysis.

Treasury and KNBS said the devices, which will be procured from Jomo Kenyatta University of Technology and Agriculture and Moi University will, after the exercise, be converted for use in primary schools.

“Already preparatory activities including mapping have been deployed since 2015 with several ongoing logistics, storage and distribution of resources for which Sh8.5 billion was set aside by the Cabinet,” said Mwangi.

The census is expected to employ over 200,000 personnel including enumerators, supervisors, village elders, coordinators and security personnel.

Rotich said that recruitment for the census jobs begins in June 2019 and those allegedly employing Kenyans are conmen out to dupe citizens.

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