The Treasury, ICT ministry and the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) snubbed a parliamentary session on a bill that creates safeguards for personal data held by institutions like phone-based lenders and telecommunications companies.
The three entities instead wrote to the Senate asking for seven days to prepare a detailed response.
The decision came as the Senate prepared to vote on the Data Protection and Privacy Bill, 2019 without the input of the government. The ICT Secretary Joe Mucheru, Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich and CBK Governor Patrick Njoroge were expected to deliberate on the protection of customer data by telecommunications companies.
“We have a request from CBK. We were to meet with ICT and National Treasury who have written back to request alternative date,” Abshiro Halakhe, the vice chairperson of the committee said.
“They are requesting in writing a meeting to be held next Wednesday. They said they require more time to prepare comprehensive responses. We will accord them this time to prepare but in the meantime our Data Protection Bill will come up for voting this afternoon.”
The bill, sponsored by Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, seeks to protect personal data collected, used or stored by both private and public entities.
The Senate committee on ICT that is chaired by Mr Moi last week differed with ICT secretary Joe Mucheru following the introduction of a similar bill backed by the government in the National Assembly.
The right to privacy is protected under Article 31 of the Constitution and the bill seeks to put to use the said Article.
Mr Mucheru had dropped a version of the bill prepared by the government and proposed amendments to the one sponsored by Mr Moi to pave the way for fast passage of the bill.
The State bill specified how data can be stored and shared and will take into account standards set by data protection laws outside Kenya, including in the European Union.
The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that took effect in 2018 is seen as a landmark law that gives the EU citizens rights over how their personal data are used.
Mr Mucheru argued that Attorney-General Paul Kihara had directed that the Cabinet-backed Data Protection and Privacy Bill be introduced in the National Assembly and both bills be harmonised.
“I need to consult further. The Attorney General said both processes should go on concurrently. The AG said the Cabinet Bill has to be introduced and then your bill will be harmonised with it. I know this is contrary to what we agreed earlier on your bill,” Mr Mucheru said.
Mr Mucheru and the committee parted ways after he failed to convince Senators on the rationale for introducing a rival bill in the Assembly.