Embezzlement or employee theft is one of the most common risks that private and public organisations face. It happens more habitually than they would be willing to acknowledge for fear of bad publicity. Those in this category make deliberate effort to look out for signs of fraud and invest resources in detection and prevention devices to protect business revenues and assets.
On the contrary, some organisations are so ineffective at identifying and evaluating associated risk factors. All operating business systems, no matter how watertight the design and whether manual or electronic, have a weakness in them despite overall strength.
Therefore, to avoid surprises, systems should be subjected to stress or torture testing to determine stability and reliability. Otherwise the institution will only learn about employee theft long after they have left employment; or, when the fraud has become part and parcel of business outcomes such that it appears normal.
Kenya Power (KP) finds itself in this strange position. Its own employees breached the prepaid system and made millions of shillings over a long time, which underscores the weaknesses within its billing and accounting platform.
In a rather felonious move, however, they are subjecting their customers to all manner of ill treatment – denial of supply, blocking meters to force them to pay bills relating to consumption unknown to them; and even interrogating them as possible accomplices of their thieving employees. But if an employee has confessed existence of collusion, they would identify the consumer credentials, which will pick out the culprits.
It is totally disingenuous for KP to take the shortcut of collecting millions lost to employee theft from customers. Customers do not play any role in hiring their employees, and must not bear the burden of fraudulent activities.
First, employees will steal because of motivation and morale issues. If a meter reader or billing clerk has been doing that same job for 20 years without a clear path of promotion to next level and pay, given changing economic circumstances, what do they do?
Secondly, if within the localised work environment exists opportunity and sufficient access to money and assets information that allows employees to believe fraud can be committed and successfully concealed, what do they do?
Third, if employee grievances, injustices (real or perceived) in compensation or promotions are not resolved, what does the employee do? KP should not bite the hand that feeds it; matters of internal management should not be used to scandalise customers.