Rogue tea factory workers tamper with weighing machines

Tea bags at a factory. [Kibata Kihu, Standard]

Kiambu County government has unearthed a scheme in local and multinational tea factories where rogue workers manipulate weighing machines to defraud farmers.

Several employees from the three factories in Githunguri and Lari areas are already in custody awaiting trial for the scam estimated to have cost farmers millions of shillings in income.

Governor Kimani Wamatangi on Thursday revealed that those apprehended in connection with the scam, will face fraud charges.

Wamatangi disclosed that the scandal was uncovered following weeks of investigations by officials from the weights and measures unit under the Department of Trade in the county government.

The probe that also included officers from the national government led to seizure of manual and digital scales that had been calibrated to facilitate the fraud.

The governor said investigations were initiated following widespread complaints from farmers over dissatisfaction with the earnings from produce supplied to the tea factories.

“This is a grave case of fraud, with farmers being deceived regarding the quantity of kilograms they deliver to the green tea factories. It is a meticulously planned scheme to swindle farmers out of their rightful earnings,” he said.

He said they are casting the net wide to include the owners or top officials in the tea factories.

Wamatangi revealed that other than being charged in court they will seek orders to have the culprits compensate the affected farmers.

Addressing journalists at his office, the county chief noted that in some factories, tea farmers were losing three kilograms out of every 20 kilograms delivered due to the tampering of weighing machines.

“Consider the significant loss for each farmer when, out of every 20 kilograms delivered, three vanish into someone else's pockets. It means that if a farmer is delivering 200 kilograms of green tea, they have been losing about 30 kilograms. This is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” Wamatangi said.

County governments are mandated to undertake verification of weighing and measuring equipment in trade and also inspect weighing and measuring instruments and pre-packed goods to ensure compliance with the Weights and Measures Act.     

Further, the devolved units are required to conduct investigations of complaints as well as prosecutions of offences arising from the Weights and Measures Act Cap 513 and Trade Descriptions Act Cap 505.

He noted that the perpetrators of the scam have been apprehended and will soon face charges in court for fraud and tampering with weighing scales.

The governor also announced the expansion of the investigation to the coffee sector, where farmers have also raised concerns about corruption and falsification of their delivery records.

“We are committed to restoring integrity in the agricultural sector. Farmers deserve their rightful share of profits from their hard work, not a select few profiting at their expense. Our next focus will be the coffee sector, which faces similar challenges,” the governor announced.

He assured that the Weights and Measures unit which is mandated to ensure fair trade practices and consumer protection, will work tirelessly to safeguard farmers' interests by cracking down on illicit practices.

Once the agricultural sector is streamlined, Wamatangi said, the department will turn its attention to the petroleum sector to tackle fuel pump tampering.

“I have also received complaints from motorists and residents about certain petrol stations manipulating their pumps. Residents should receive fuel at the correct price,” he said.

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