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After Years of Legal Battles and Corruption Allegations, Kenya Launches New Digital Plates

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kenya digital plate
Image: Courtesy

It was in 2020 when now Busia Senator-elect and activist Okiya Omtatah went to court challenging the procurement process of digital number plates in Kenya. In his affidavit, he alleged corruption and fraud in the government’s intention to establish a new production facility for the plates. Today, the Kenyan government has launched new digital number plates, witnessed by senior government officials. Current plates are to be phased out in compliance with the Traffic Act of 2016.

Legal Battles

For years, the government could not successfully launch the project, mostly due to tender disputes. The new generation number plates were supposed to be rolled out in September 2015. To produce the plates, they needed new machines blanks and hot stamping foil. The proposed plates bear anti-counterfeit features that include holograms, watermarks, and laser markers.

About 13 local and international companies competed for the lucrative tender for supply of hi-tech registration plates. Tropical technologies, acting for Mulschard of Germany, had won the tender.

Suddenly, in 2015, the government awarded the tender to Ugandan firm MIG International. They actually split this KES 2 billion supply deal contract alongside Germany’s Hoffman International.

You can guess what happened next.

Tropical technologies sued. 

The tender was annulled following an appeal by Tropical Technologies. The Public Procurement Oversight Authority went in favour of Tropical Technologies in 2017, but this was clearly not the end.

MIG international sued too. 

MIG had sued the Procurement Authority, Attorney General Githu Muigai and Tropical Technologies. Tropical Technologies in its appeal claimed that MIG could only supply stamping foils for 120mm x 305mm number plates. The tender had also required equipment for 220mm x 306mm plates.

In their response, MIG said that no evidence of the allegation was provided- they could supply anything that was required. Eventually, the tender was still awarded to Tropical Technologies.

Corruption Allegations

The High Court in September 2020 temporarily stopped the Interior Ministry from advertising for firms with interest in building the plan. Justice James Makau suspended tendering for the plant pending a hearing and determination of activist Okiya Omtatah’s case.

Mr Omtatah had argued that the government spent more than KES 1 billion in acquiring, commissioning and testing the production facility. He said the government’s decision for a new tender was based on corruption and fraud on the public by secretly abandoning the already procured equipment.

“It makes no sense at all to abandon the already acquired, tested and commissioned machinery for the final production of the number plates, which is lying idle at Kamiti Prison, and procure an entire production plant whose installed capacity will never be utilised,” said Omtatah.

Correctional Services PS Zeinab Hussein would later tell the court that these were just sensational and unsubstantiated allegations.

Kenya Launches New Digital Plates

kenya digital plate

Image: Nation

CS Matiang’i (Security), CS Joseph Mucheru (ICT) and NTSA Director General George Njao and other government officials witnessed the launch today.

The plates are being produced at GSU Recce unit headquarters in Ruiru. The digital number plates come with inbuilt security features that allow for the tracing of car ownership by law enforcement agencies. It will help them to easily trace a car in the event it is involved in committing crime.

“The work is being done by a multi-agency unit of the security sector and is part of the reforms initiated by President Uhuru Kenyatta after the 2019 Dusit attack,” said CS Matiang’i.

During importation, they shall fix the plates at the point of entry. The government plans to synchronize them with KRA systems to help rid cases of tax evasion in the car selling business.

“They form a basis for tracking and monitoring vehicles in the country which have risen significantly from 3.2M million last year to 4.8 million this year,” CS Mucheru.

The plates will feature the Kenyan Flag and an NTSA Serial Number. Other features;

  • Microchip
  • QR Code
  • New Font
  • Hologram

Once NTSA has called out for the exercise to begin, Kenyans will have 18 months to comply, at a price of KES 3,000.

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