Five Kenya power IT staff face probe over Sh1 billion fraud

Detectives are investigating claims that some Kenya Power employees infiltrated the company’s billing system to embezzle Sh1 billion.

On the spotlight is the pre-paid token generation and the postpaid bill, which the tech-savvy employees are said to have manipulated to divert the State Corporation’s revenue into their own pockets.

The employees are said to have connived to generate extra tokens or create loopholes that facilitated the sale of genuine tokens in the black market.

An insider revealed that with the knowledge of the system, the employees under investigation were able to generate tokens sold cheaply to third party merchants at the expense of the company.

With the knowledge of the integrated customer management system, the suspects, most of whom are from the IT department, are also said to have tampered with its operations to alter bills by lowering them at the expense of the company.

In the process, the staff are said to have pocketed money to assist in “clearing the system and also generate pre-paid tokens”. There has been public uproar over cases of inflated customer bills and questions about varying quantities of pre-paid tokens.

To tie the loose ends in the nearly one month’s investigations, detectives are seeking court’s intervention to access the systems involved and also warrants to search the suspects’ houses in what could be another scam involving the power supplier.

Five suspended

Five employees in the IT department have already been suspended by the company and are under investigation.

Kiambu Senior Principal Magistrate Stella Atambo has granted the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) permission to search the homes of the five employees implicated in the scandal.

Juliet Kimwei, attached to DCI headquarters Serious Crimes Unit, made an application for a search warrant.

Ms Kimwei, the investigating officer, told Kiambu Senior Principal Magistrate Stella Atambo that she was probing a case of conspiracy to defraud the company by the said staff.

She told the court that the staff, through the firm’s integrated customer management system, are alleged to have embezzled Sh1 billion by manipulating the said system.

“It is believed the five mentioned staff abused their special rights as IT experts in the integrated customer management system to fraudulently embezzle funds that belong to the company,” she told the court.

The investigating officer also informed the court that the five workers are believed to have logged into the company’s integrated customer management system remotely, during odd hours and away from the office, to manipulate bills in favour of some company customers. They are also suspected to have interfered with token generation.

In the application, the investigation officer noted that the purpose of the search is to recover any electronic gadgets or material valuable to the investigations.

Prosecution counsel Christine Mbevi supported the application by the officer, saying the five staff abused their special rights as IT experts to fraudulently embezzle the money.

The magistrate gave an order granting the detective the search warrant.

“I, therefore, authorise Juliet Kimwei an investigator from DCI headquarters, Serious Crimes Unit, by this warrant to search the said premises, and to require the production for her scrutiny or any evidence relevant to the investigation,” Ms Atambo said in her ruling.

She also directed that the case to be mentioned on April 17, when the court will be informed on the outcome of the investigations.

The Standard learnt that management decided to involve the investigation agencies after an internal inquiry indicated that the company could have lost money through manipulation of systems.

An insider revealed to The Standard that heads started rolling last month after the board sanctioned the suspension of the employees suspected of masterminding the theft.

Under investigations

When the matter of suspension came up late last month, Kenya Power CEO Jared Omondi confirmed that the issue was under investigation.

“I cannot comment on this issue at the moment since there’s active investigation going on. I’m currently out of the country,” said Omondi on phone from the US at the time. 

Reliable sources intimated that the racket has been going on since 2010, raising fears that more money could have been lost.

A company employee who cannot be named to protect him, said the audit indicated that initially small proportions of cash were stolen before it gradually grew into a serious venture involving the employees and some outsiders.