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High bills: How Kenya Power staff stole from you

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By VINCENT ACHUKA
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Kenya power staff colluded with individuals and organisations to steal from consumers through inflated bills, an investigation has revealed.

The finding discredits a claim by the power distribution company last year that the inflated bills were as a result of migration to an Integrated Customer Management System (inCMS) and the backdating of bills in order to recover an outstanding Sh10.1 billion owed by customers.

The inflation of bills, Kenya Power argued, was necessary because it did not want to raise power charges during an election year, so it had to recover the money that had caused a huge hole in their 2017 financial statements.

The Nation learnt that the theft syndicate worked in three ways. In some cases, customers were connected to the grid through unregistered post-paid metres. The money paid by these customers did not make it to the company’s accounts, but channelled to individual pockets.

In the second scheme, some employees from the information technology department lowered bills at the expense of the company in exchange for kickbacks from the consumers who benefited. They would log into the system at night and during weekends from off-site locations and manipulate bills in favour of some consumers.

The third tactic was the boldest. Here, the schemers made money through inflating bills for some customers. They would then sit back and wait for those who would raise complaints.

Some domestic customers paid ridiculously high bills of up to Sh300,000 per month. Those who complained were coerced to part with some money before their bills were regularised.

Last night, the Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI), Mr George Kinoti, summoned 119 individuals and directors of companies to record statements next week as he ties up a 16-month investigation.

Mr Kinoti said 5,000 customers benefited from the scam. He instructed the companies to report to DCI headquarters along Kiambu road between Monday and Tuesday without fail.

“The DCI is investigating allegations of fraud involving millions of shillings at Kenya Power in regards to its postpaid billing system. The funds were lost as a result of conspiracy between some staff, brokers and customers. More than 5,000 customers benefited,” said Mr Kinoti. The DCI did not, however, say whether those summoned were victims or suspects.

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Among those set to record statements is Moi University, whose five campuses have been listed. Others are Nairobi Women’s Hospital, Safaricom Investment Cooperative Society, Dandora Catholic Church, Eldoret Polytechnic and Sawagongo High School.

Sources say Kenya Power might have lost up to Sh1 billion as some of its employees had manipulated its billing systems and diverted money to their pockets. Part of the money was used to reimburse customers who filed their complaints with the company after the matter caused an uproar.

At some point, the heat was too much that the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) scraped a Sh150 fixed charge on electricity. In July, ERC argued that this move would reduce the overall unit cost of power from an all-time high of Sh17.77 kilowatt per hour to Sh16.64.

The matter even went to court through Former Law Society of Kenya chief executive Apollo Mboya but he reached an out-of-court settlement with Kenya Power in October.

In the settlement, Kenya Power agreed to stick to tariffs approved by the ERC and set up billing query centres countrywide.

In May 2017, Kenya Power acquired a new inCMS to replace the Integrated Customer System (ICS), which had been in place since 1997. At the time, the company argued that it needed a new system because the old one could no longer handle its huge customer base.

“This old system is obsolete and cannot accommodate the current company growth rate and the new customer base of 5.8 million users, real time,” said Eng. John Wekesa, the power firm’s chief engineer in charge of the new system during its launch.

Additional reporting by Nyaboga Kiage

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Donald Trump to break off ties with WHO

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By AFP

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President Donald Trump said Friday he was breaking off US ties with the World Health Organisation, which he says failed to do enough to combat the initial spread of the novel coronavirus.

Trump had already suspended funding to the UN agency, accusing it of being a “puppet” of China as the global health crisis erupted.

“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organisation,” Trump told reporters.

The Republican leader said the US would be “redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs“.

Tracking coronavirus

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No decision yet on when schools will open, says Magoha

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By FAITH NYAMAI

Learning institutions will not reopen on June 4 as was earlier scheduled, Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha has said.

Speaking after he received an interim report from the 10-member Education Response Committee on Covid-19 at the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development yesterday, Prof Magoha said schools will remain closed until the Covid-19 situation is contained.

“Parents should prepare to stay with their children longer until the health situation in the country stabilises. As at now, I cannot say when schools will resume. For me timelines and national exams are not a priority, they can even stay until January,” Prof Magoha said.

The Ministry of Health projected that the rates of Covid-19 infections are likely to hit a peak in August-September.

“The ministry takes these projections seriously, especially in view of the fact that more than 359 of our schools are currently designated as quarantine and isolation centres.”

The CS asked parents to be prepared to face the reality of an extended closure of schools.

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He said the government cannot sacrifice the health of children for the sake of an education that can wait to be offered later, when the safety and health of children can be guaranteed.

“The ministry will desist from focusing on schools’ reopening dates and instead give priority to putting in place solid mitigation measures.”

Prof Magoha downplayed some of the recommendations of the task force and said the report is too preliminary to be acted on.

The ministry, he said, will review the report before advising the country on the steps to be taken regarding the academic calendar and the level of preparedness that will be required of all stakeholders involved in the running of schools.

“There are several committees set up by President Uhuru Kenyatta on the response to the pandemic. I will look into the report and we will have to remove some of the recommendations made by the Education task force and retain others.”

The ministry of Education, he said, will table some of the proposals before the National Emergency Response Committee this weekend for further consultations to inform the decision on reopening schools

“These consultations will also take into consideration the fact that the current government restrictions announced by President Kenyatta will expire on June 6,” he said.

Details in the committee’s report revealed that the team is proposing that this year’s national examinations be pushed to a date not earlier than February next year.

Credible sources on the committee also revealed they have advised that schools be reopened in September.

The report prepared by the Dr Sarah Ruto-chaired committee recommends that the Ministry of Education change the academic calendar to start in September and provide all resources required to keep schools running.

Other recommendations are that school funds that were meant for first term, second and third term should be released in whole in September once classes resume.

Prof Magoha, who seemed to have disagreed with some of the details of the report, said the decision to reopen schools should not be hastened.

He said even though Covid-19 may linger, the ministry has started putting in place measures to ensure children are safeguarded and high levels of hygiene are maintained in schools.

“We will start putting water in our schools and put all the other measures in place for both learners and teachers,” he said.

On private schools, the CS said all learning institutions are closed and those enrolling learners for second term are going against the ministry’s regulations.

He, however, said parents who choose to pay for their children to attend online classes should do it voluntarily.

“Private schools depend on parents and those that have their children studying online should pay,” he said.

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 Nation, DTB help needy families

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By JOSEPH OPENDA

Hannah Muthoni, 39, has not smiled for months. The hard economic times occasioned by Covid-19 pandemic has made life unbearable for her and her family.

When the disease was first reported in the country, she was among the first people to feel its pinch. She was among the casual labourers who were laid off when the flower firm she was working for grounded operations after the government announced containment measures to stem its spread.

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Since then, the mother of seven has been depending on her relatives for help to provide for her family.

But she smiled yesterday, thanks to the initiative by the Nation Media Group (NMG) Board chairman Wilfred Kiboro and Diamond Trust Bank (DTB) to provide relief food for the vulnerable community members.

Ms Muthoni was among the 4,000 residents of Subukia who benefited from the relief food worth over Sh1 million, which was distributed across the three wards in the constituency.

She could not hide her joy after receiving her relief package.

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“It has been a very difficult period for me since my husband and I were sent home from work due to the pandemic. Getting food on the table has been a matter of luck. But, with this package, I’m assured of a meal for two weeks,” said Ms Muthoni.

Dr Kiboro said he took the initiative to look for donors to assist the families who have been negatively affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.He said DTB came in handy and agreed to support the initiative.

“Subukia is my rural home and I realised that most families are suffering in silence. I therefore took it upon myself to use the connections that I have to mobilise support. I thank DTB for supporting the initiative,” said Dr Kiboro.

He called on individuals and corporate organisations that can help to join in the donations to help the vulnerable members of the society.

“This is just a matter of standing up to be counted. I believe everyone can give something to help a neighbour who is in need. I urge everyone to support these families,” said Dr Kiboro.

DTB Nakuru branch manager Lucy Rotich said the bank is committed to supporting poor families in the times of need.

“As DTB, we want to stand in solidarity with our clients in all times since we understand that most people are affected by this pandemic,” said Ms Rotich.

Magdalena Nthenya who was among the beneficiaries, thanked the bank for the donations, saying that it was timely.

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