Tag Archives: Kenya

Is The Car You’re Driving A Fraud?

Did you know that an estimated 90% of used cars being sold in Kenya have their odometers (mileage meter) tampered with?

Well, these statistics are not scientific. I obtained them from representatives of two separate car dealers in Nairobi. They both surmised that 90% of used cars are tampered with before being sold off to unsuspecting motorists.

If you are plotting to buy a used car in the near future, please read on. You, too, if you already bought a car.

By law, a used car being imported is supposed to be inspected based upon documents from the country of origin. This documentation is usually accurate and reliable.

Upon being inspected by contracted agents such as the ever reliable JEVIC, the car’s general condition is ascertained and published. The car’s make, chassis number, odometer reading, etc. are also logged and registered with KEBS. This is a condition not just for importation, but also for registering the car in-country (Kenya).

What happens thereafter, however, is that unscrupulous dealers – and they are many – will rewind the odometer reading in the desperate but wicked attempt to sell the car fast, and at a fraudulent premium.

Please note that this tampering exercise happens AFTER inspection. After, because the process is hard to manipulate before (inspection).

So, for example, a car will land at Mombasa port with its odometer reading a mileage of, say, 126,120km. But by the time it is being disposed of at a yard in Nairobi, its odometer will be reading 46,160km.

A prospective buyer will then delight in the fact that the car has been scarcely used when, in fact, the car had been burning rubber on Japanese roads day and night.

Only this afternoon did I bust a Ngong road-based dealer (Ami-pal Motors) who had custody of a car I sought to buy. Individuals purporting to be the used car dealer’s agents knew that the car’s odometer had been falsified but hid the fact until I undertook a professional assessment via JEVIC.

It took minutes for the JEVIC expert to blow the used car dealer’s cover. The mileage, at a little over 65,000 kilometers, had been understated by a whopping 100,000 kilometers.IMG_3604-0.JPG

When I confronted the agents, they betrayed little guilt, even having the shameless, chest-thumping temerity of telling me that 90% of the cars on used car yards along the road, theirs included, featured manipulated odometers. I was miffed!

Luckily, I had not parted with a single cent.

What many motorists don’t know is that it is very simple to tell if one’s car mileage has been tampered with.

If you want to buy a used car, determine its chassis from either (1) original documentation of the car or (2) by physically reading the chassis number, which for most cars can be found under the bonnet of the car.

Having determined the chassis number, you can visit the KEBS website on http://kebs.org/index.php?opt=qai&view=vehicle_search-inspection and enter the chassis number. The KEBS page will then give you the pre-shipment specifications of the car, the genuine odometer reading included.

There’s another way: For only Kshs. 4,060/-, JEVIC can inspect the car for you at a yard and unearth various aspects of the car’s condition (genuine odometer reading included) that you need to know and which the car paperwork hardly bare.

If you believe one candle can light up a million others, please tweet or ‘facebook’ this post.

I pity the hordes of Kenyans who are fleeced at used car yards everyday out of ignorance.

The professionals at JEVIC do a stupendous job. If buying a car that’ll cost you a tidy sum, it’s worth spending a small fee to get to know a lot more than looks can tell.



The Case For A Digital National ID For Kenya

Is it possible for the Government to connect a driver’s license, NSSF and NHIF cards, tax PIN, national ID (or passport), photo, fingerprints and mobile number to one identity, based on a single card?

Yes, it is possible. Malaysia has done it.

Through myKad, the Asian country became the first one in the world to collapse an individual’s holistic profile (passport photo, biometric and government-issued credentials) to one smartImage card. The cards are of four types:

  1. MyKid – for Malaysian citizens under the age of 12 including new-borns (non-compulsory);
  2. MyPR – for Malaysian Permanent Residents;
  3. MyTentera – for Malaysian Armed Forces personnel; and
  4. MyPolis – for Royal Malaysian Police personnel.

The MyKad project was intended to have four functions:

  • Identity card, incorporating data on fingerprints, postal address, location address, photo and conventional passport number, if any;
  • Driver’s licence;
  • Travel document in Malaysia and several neighbouring countries. However, a conventional passport is still required for international travel. The card is also aimed at reducing congestion at the border by enabling the use of unmanned gates using biometric (fingerprint) identification.
  • Storage of health information (e.g. blood group – which is key to establish quickly in the event of, say car accidents, insurance memberships, etc.).

Four further applications were added during its initial release:

  • e-cash, an ‘electronic wallet’ system intended for low value but high volume transactions (maximum limit was pegged at US$ 500). The government can make payments (e.g. cash bail) to citizens electronically via the card.
  • Touch ‘n Go – Malaysia’s toll road tolling system and also public transport payment system.
  • Digital certificate, commonly known as Public Key Infrastructure (PKI).

By law, MyKad must be carried at all times. Failure to do so may incur a fine or jail term of up to three years. Moreover, unlike in Kenya, security guards and other unauthorised persons are not allowed to retain the MyKads of other people. Only those authorised by the National Registration Department, like the police and immigration officers, can do so.

myKad Lessons for Kenya:

  • Since mobile phone numbers are supposed to be registered, these, too, can be incorporated into a modern digital national ID Imagethat also serves as one’s NSSF, NHIF, driver’s license, and biometric card. It can also be used as a voter’s card during national polls.
  • Adoption of such a card will help sanitise national citizen’s registration information already with Government. A massive but simple – technologically speaking – project of amalgamating all silos of Government and quasi-government (e.g. NSSF) held data should be undertaken for the card to be practicable.
  • Police on patrol can be equipped with small portable card readers with which they can access a person’s information. Traffic police officers would use such gadgets to access the individual’s driving license. Using these gadgets, the police can also read a card, print court summons, or issue receipts for cash bail offered.Instead of having separate numbers for tax PIN, NSSF and driver’s license, the use of one (national ID) number should be able to bare all. Of course, there would be massive cost savings in the long term made from adopting one smartcard as opposed to multiple cards issued by various agencies. There can also be a similarly smart card for aliens (refugees).
  • In the back office, the registration and law enforcement authorities would have a 3600 view of its citizens’ profiles using software and dashboards. This means that access to details of one’s card bares complete information about the person, including details of mobile phone numbers used before, “connections” to kinsmen, countries visited, etc.
  • In later phases, the cards can also be linked to issued payment cards, debit and credit, and from these, government can using court orders obtain access to details of transactions, malls or ATMs visited, etc. The issuance of these cards must be done using stringent physical and logical security processes to ensure that illicit cards cannot be issued under any circumstances.
  • Government offices, hospitals and even hotels should be equipped with inexpensive, PCI-DSS certified terminals (PoS) or ETR machines for purposes of any government transactions, monetary-based or otherwise, with this card.With proper policies and applications in place, the card can be extremely useful in netting tax evaders.

Government Oversight In Media Is In the Public’s Interest

Recently, I got amused when a news anchor of a leading TV station in Kenya asked the Cabinet Secretary for Arts and Culture whether the government was intent on letting the various sports associations in the country regulate themselves.             

Isn’t it for purposes of holding in trust the interests of citizenry, I wondered to myself, that we establish governments to exercise supervision of various public institutions, or of entities that have a profound impact on the wider society?

As citizens, we must learn to appreciate the noble role of government in ensuring that the public’s interests are well served, and well protected.

Ironically, the media is one such institution from whose activities we cannot disassociate government oversight.

Lately, the Kenya government has come under heavy criticism for their attempt to gain greater supervision of the media through the Kenya Communication and Information (Amendment) Bill.

According to observers and media analysts, the government move stifles democracy and stands in the way of not only media freedom, but also citizenry’s right to information. Beneath these rantings by NGOs, media owners and eminent journalists about the Bill, there is a clamour to maintain status quo and have the industry regulate itself.

But, can it really?

Among the published functions of the Kenya Media Council as mandated by the Media Act (Cap. 411B) is to “promote ethical standards among journalists and in the media”.

Well, I believe that on the afore-stated mandate, the Council has over the years performed dismally.

For example, as the Media Council looks the other way, our typically impressionable kids set out to school in PSVs in which radio shows expose them to odious, often sexually lurid content courtesy of certain media companies. As a parent, I cannot reconcile myself to the notion that the hosts of the said shows ascribe to freedom of the press these depraved radio themes.

The establishment of a free press in Norway, which is among countries that were declared to have the most free press in 2011-2012, was written into their Constitution in the `19th century under Article 100. Punishment for any writing is strictly prohibited in the Article, except where the writing leads to law-breaking activity, “contempt of religion or morality or constitutional power”.

There is healthy regulation of journalism in this Scandinavian country, and the media practice is honourable.

Contrariwise, sections of the Kenyan media are promoting practices that are disruptive to the proper preparation and development of a responsible and socially mature generation of young Kenyans. And I am utterly disappointed that the Media Council appears either unwilling or unable to rein in these sections of the rogue media whose acts are increasingly dishonourable to the profession.

Yes, our kids are being ‘spoilt’ by the media.

Slowly but surely, we have condoned the decay of the delicate social fabric that is the foundation of every society’s future – the young generation. Our media has been guilty of poisoning efforts to bring up our kids as mature, successful and responsible adults.

I mean, explicitly vulgar music lyrics and glorification of violence are all hallmarks of what is branded ‘adults only’ in public movie theatres. However, as far as Kenya’s broadcast and other media is concerned, these are prime time shows on TV and radio.

Little wonder that kids nowadays are far more rebellious and prone to dangerous, irresponsible sex, in some cases at ages just shy of puberty.

I hold that the consumers of media should be protected from media excesses by an institution or framework that is all inclusive but truly independent. And the proposed Amendment Bill, in spite of paranoid views from media practitioners and NGOs, offers just that.

Whenever government moves in with intent to protect certain noble interests, those threatened by such moves have a tendency of pointing out shadows behind every bush. What I find intriguing is that the Fourth Estate is wont to highlight parts of the proposed draft Bill that it considers disenchanting to them and, in calling for the Bill’s total withdrawal, stays mum about its positive aspects.

I stand for press freedom that tempers freedom with excesses that are likely to bring about social cataclysm. Just as movies are regulated and branded ‘unsuitable for under 16’ or ‘PG’ and so on, so should we regulate what our media projects to the public.

The Broadcast Standards Committee under the envisaged Bill is part of the oversight that will put a check on any disruptive benefits of free media. The existence of a set of prescriptive standards of broadcast and media in which the citizens have actual say through a government agency is a welcome move.

It is neither enough, nor sometimes fair, to justify certain extreme media actions by advising offended persons to seek redress in court. Often, the damage will have been inflicted way before the offended party files a case in court.

Moreover, free press has, granted, been hailed as a liberator, and one that precipitated free democracies in many countries. But when it comes to national security matters, the media is a double edged sword.

Although state security matters are deliberately cloaked under a veil of secrecy, many security experts will tell you that the Fourth Estate is prone to manipulation by forces – particularly external – that harbour threats to a country’s well-being. This is all the more reason why there is strong need for a framework that, while providing an enabling, free press atmosphere, allows for pre-defined “national security” oversight by a government agency.

Government should be able to create an atmosphere supportive of free press but at the same time, be protectionist of the havoc that comes with freedom.

Otherwise if the media is granted immoderate freedom, who will protect us from its excesses?

As Nairobi Modernises, Will The City’s Law Enforcers?

Nairobi city

City of Nairobi

This is an open letter to the Honourable Joseph ole Lenku, the  Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Interior, and Hon. Evans Kidero, the Governor of Nairobi.

Our capital city’s erstwhile reputation as the Green City in the Sun has been damaged largely by decades of dreadful management, wanton lack of oversight and, overall, systematic neglect of its own by-laws.

The city has defied this decay and is slowly but surely emerging as a financial and tech hub in Africa. A growing middle class, vibrant financial markets, fairly educated workforce and a construction boom have now become synonymous with eastern Africa’s largest city.

Often, when the general public talks of a ‘modern’ city, it is glistening high-rise buildings, advanced road networks,  gargantuan shopping malls and dazzling night life that almost instinctively come to mind. Rarely, if ever, will crime and a total breakdown of order come to mind.

Yet, my strong feeling is that with the profile that it is increasingly gaining, Nairobi requires that the authorities concerned look at how we can better employ security resources. Here are a few ideas, within the realm of law and order, that this post was intended to share for your consideration.

1. Outsource Traffic Surveillance

In a country deficient of the recommended number of law enforcers required to effectively forestall runaway crime, it goes without saying that we need more policemen and policewomen deployed in mainstream crime prevention duties. My radical suggestion is that Nairobi outsources traffic surveillance to a top private security firm.

The firm would invest in surveillance cameras that have both number-plate recognition and night vision capabilities (they exist!). The cameras would be used to remotely monitor the city’s major roads and highways, particularly those notorious for gridlocks.

From the security firm’s central monitoring centre, their officers would look out for and capture evidence in real time of drivers flouting traffic laws like in cases of overlapping, obstructing, jumping traffic lights and dropping off passengers in non-designated areas. The police would then be presented with the incriminating evidence for follow up and the security firm paid a pre-determined percentage from the resulting fines.

In fact, a law can even be enacted to make it mandatory for insurers to recover the fines from offending car owners, on behalf of government, as a pre-condition for insurance renewal. Moreover, in case of a motor accident, the security firm would be able to quickly tip-off the police to the scene.

Of course, the biggest loser in such an arrangement would be the glaring impunity embodied by the unscrupulous traffic police officer who is wont to pocket bribes that otherwise are revenues that rightfully belong in the public coffers. Thus in considering implementing such a plan, change management on the part of the Kenya Police Service would be vital for the overall project’s success. But the biggest winner, ultimately, would be the ordinary mwananchi.

Some countries such as South Africa have traffic marshalls who complement law enforcement officers in tracking traffic offenders. Like bounty hunters, they are rewarded through commissions paid off fines. Moreover, the surveillance infrastructure in Johannesburg is managed by the city’s business community and manned by rehabilitated former thugs.

Apart from minor legal enactment encumbrances, I see few challenges in outsourcing traffic surveillance. In fact, the BOT (build, operate, transfer) model of project financing would be perfect! In such an instance, the city government can take over the monitoring infrastructure after a given period of time within which the security firm would have recouped its investment.

2. Modernise Traffic Lights

Solar-powered lightsI cannot remember the last time Nairobi was lucky to have a well-meaning chief executive like Governor Evans Kidero. He has cited traffic management as one of his priorities and I hope he gets the necessary support to modernize Nairobi’s derelict traffic lights systems.

His government may want to borrow from Mumbai City which, backed by the World Bank, and reeling from chocking traffic, deployed camera-assisted, cutting edge traffic lights systems that featured, among other capabilities, real time adjustments. So if Nairobi were to outsource traffic surveillance as afore-described, the same cameras can also be used to aid in the management of traffic lights.

Many traffic lights systems today are be equipped with Wifi or GSM modems which eliminate the need to lay down underground communication cables for remote traffic management.

3. Recruit Local Law Enforcers

Growing up in Nairobi’s Buru Buru in the 1980s and early 1990s, my contemporaries and I knew many of the louts in the neighbourhood and adjoining residential estates, where they attended school, their inner-estate hangout lair (maskan, we called it), siblings, close friends, sometimes even their parents. Whenever anything anti-social occurred, we had a fairly good hunch of who the culprits were. Often, they were.

I yearn for the day when the Kenya Police Service and County Government would consider a Metropolitan force whose law enforcement teams would be drawn from the suburbs. Think about it, if you grew up in a certain locality and were familiar with the residents, wouldn’t you be more effective in helping crack down on the bad elements? Wouldn’t residents be more motivated to embrace community policing if they worked closely with familiar faces and age-old pals?

For this to happen, the authorities could come up with a metropolitan policing policy that requires, say, 60% of officers in a police station to be drawn from that very locality.

It is no secret that residents are more familiar with the rogue elements in their neighbourhood. When, in the late 90s, I was a member of the Rotaract movement, we made regular visits to the Mathare-based Good Samaritan Children’s Home, which we supported at the time. As we trudged through the valley after an afternoon of playing and hanging out with the kids, the older ones escorting us would often furtively point out to us some of the bad guys in the sprawling slum.

“That guy is known to harbour and sell guns”, they whispered to us. “See this other guy”, another kid volunteered, “he is the local mungiki commandant. He rakes in extortion money daily from shop owners”.

The point? What better way to implement community policing than by having police stations in crime-prone areas manned by qualified, trusted locals who grew up in the same area they are serving?

4. Basic Automation For Police Stations

Currently, when one has an incident to report at a police station, the officer at the reporting desk would record your statement on a usually threadbare Occurrence Book (OB) and, once done, hand you the OB reference number written on a piece of paper.

I believe headquarters lacks a graphical or statistical mechanism of tracking, using a portal or database, in real time, the locality where a case has been lodged, the frequency and category of crimes reported, etc.

Undoubtedly such information would help the force come up with rapid counter-measures quickly, besides assist them in strategic planning.

It would be my wish to have each police station equipped with a hand-held PDQ device. These are typically hardy, can work anywhere served by a mobile network and can be instrumental in logging and transmitting statistics, in near real-time, to a centralized intelligence-gathering portal.

The software installed in the PDQ, which relays data using normal GSM SIM cards, would have various categories of crimes. So if one made a report of, say, a carjack, the officer at the reporting desk would, after recording the statement, enter the details of the crime on a PDQ, including details of the specific road in which the crime occurred, plus the victim’s ID number or equivalent. The PDQ (some of them support biometrics) would then generate a report receipt with the OB reference number which can be handed to the victim.

In the meantime, away from the police station, the crime dashboard, which can be made available on a publicly accessible portal, would instantaneously be updated with details of this particular incident. A number of local technology firms are known to program and support these kind of PDQs and therefore there is local capacity to support them. Indeed, some of the PDQs support solar charging and can operate for several days without the need for battery recharge.

With such an open system, investors can access crime statistics of various locations, neighbourhood associations and ordinary citizens can readily access the information and take measures to improve their security or even lend in useful information that can be used to nab suspects. Additionally, if statistics pointed to an upsurge of carjacking incidents in a certain area, headquarters can make informed decisions to deploy more patrol vehicles or step up foot patrols.

If a certain locality, on the other hand, registers a disproportionately high amount of female rape cases, the police chiefs would be better advised to deploy more policewomen, and so on.

Of course, there are more ways in which the technology could be improved including being able to compile weekly crime reports to county neighbourhood associations, alerting security guards and on-patrol officers via SMS, etc.

Granted, there are, overall, many interventions – some indeed basic – required to boost security and order. The now moribund 999 emergency number should be made to work reliably at all times, the welfare and proper equipping of police officers needs to be urgently looked into and residents should be enlightened on the various ways in which they can act as first line of deterrence.

But even as we focus on the basics, it is my hope that the authorities concerned can consider incorporating the foregoing (similarly basic) tips as necessary in endeavours to improve enforcement of law and order. It is instructive that implementation of some of the ideas shared would be good candidates for public-private partnerships. Both the Constitution and Vision 2030 blueprint contemplate closer partnerships not only between citizenry and Government but also between Government and private sector.

As the city surges ahead with its rapid modernisation and increasing sophistication of her residents, its law enforcement agencies should not be left behind. 

Useful References

a. Why Government Should Outsource Technology


b. Municipalities Need To Outsource In 2013


c. Mumbai Introduces Modern Traffic Management System


Twitter: @fkariuki