Census officials have been thrown into panic after a court issued an order barring them from hiring civil servants as supervisors and enumerators in the August 24 exercise.
The officials held a crisis meeting on Friday following the directive by the Employment and Labour Relations Court on Thursday.
The court directed the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) to remove from its list the names of public servants hired to participate in the census as supervisors or enumerators.
The court gave KNBS, Homa Bay County Commissioner, county statistics officer and the Attorney-General 21 days within which to hand in the list of supervisors and enumerators hired in Rachuonyo North Sub-County.
Five petitioners went to court challenging the hiring criteria and occupation status of some of the people picked to help in the census.
Similar complaints have emerged from many other parts of the country like Kiambaa in Kiambu and Kangemi and Kibra in Nairobi.
Director of Population and Social Statistics at KNBS MacDonald George Obudho told the media that the order could delay some elements of the training for the officers to be involved in the census.
“Our legal team is looking at the order as we try to decipher what it means for the census in general,” Mr Obudho said.
“We are holding a meeting with the national census steering committee in the afternoon to look into the matter. This is the highest decision-making organ as far as the process is concerned,” he said.
It is not clear if order is restricted to civil servants in Homa Bay or the entire country.
“We want to know if the order requires us to cancel the census in the affected area. We will know if it prevents us from going ahead with the exercise,” added Mr Obudho.
“It is also astonishing that the hearing is slated for September 17, long after the census.”
Mr Obudho, who described the order as ‘not well informed’, said enumerators are not affected because a majority of them are jobless young people.
“Where we could be having a problem is the content and ICT supervisors. One ought to look at the context and hierarchy of the exercise and the officers recruited.
“We need to have a mix of youth and people with experience. What happens in a case where a vehicle unexpectedly breaks down or there’s refusal of entry? We need experience in such instances,” he added.
Mr Obudho said there are 138,572 enumerators out of a possible total of 163,307 officers hired.
“Though there are civil servants on the list, a majority are educated but unemployed youth,” he said, adding that the directive could stall pre-enumeration household listing in the affected area.
On Friday, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the 2019 population and housing census at Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi.
He said the count would improve planning and decision-making based on evidence.
“We’ll utilise data from this census to gauge the extent which we have delivered on our development agenda and for charting the roadmap for the next journey in achieving Vision 2030,” he said.