February 23rd 2018

Business / Technology

What is in a number plate?

Digital number plates are not only trendy, but also crucial in ensuring security.

By Cynthia Iranducirandu@kenyafreepress.comWednesday, 06 Jul 2016 18:33 EAT

There are 2.2 million vehicles on Kenya’s roads daily. A new rule in town requires owners of buses, cars and other motor vehicles to part with Sh3,700 for new number plates. The number plate comes with a microchip. Boda boda and trailer owners pay Sh1,500. Owners of vehicles with ordinary number plates must replace them within the next two years. The rule stipulates that each car will have a front and rear number plate and a sticker placed on the windscreen. This sticker bears information on the ownership, insurance and validates payment of tax. A radio frequency identification microchip on the sticker will facilitate a transfer of information to traffic lights and mobile police readers. Digital number plates are not only trendy, but also crucial in ensuring security. In the Diaspora, officers use this technology to detect and hinder crime.

The Prisons Department at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison currently makes number plates in Kenya. From time to time, a shortage of number plates hits motor vehicle dealers and clients, stalling the registration of new vehicles. Usually the vehicles are detained at the port or freight stations. Storage charges shoot up. The Kenya Revenue Authority stipulates that all imported vehicles have number plates while at the port of Mombasa. When the National Transport and Safety Authority delays on payment to the Prisons Department, number plate production stalls. Prisoners make one thousand number plates daily at Kamiti. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 68,489, cars were imported last year.

Fraudsters also make counterfeit car number plates downtown. They masquerade as mechanics behind Shell Petrol Station on Kirinyaga Road. Prices of the fake vehicle registration numbers vary depending on a customer’s taste and requirements. These crooked mechanics also acquire radio frequency identification microchips from new vehicles involved in road accidents. Most of the mechanics learnt this side hustle from Kamiti where they were once jailbirds. It is sometimes difficult to produce unique number plates-two vehicles occasionally have identical ones.

The acting Executive Director of the Anti-Counterfeiting Agency Mr John Akoten also owns a car with fake registration. The State Official also altered a tracking device in another one of the cars assigned to him by the government. This was publicized after investigations on an earlier accident that occurred one and a half years ago ended. The government vehicle, a Volkswagen Passat initially had blue parastatal number plates. Mr Akoten wanted a civilian number plate prompting him to send his driver to mechanics to downtown Nairobi near Kirinyaga road. This service cost Sh2,500.

Mr Akoten appeared before an investigative committee. Committee members probed him and he vehemently denied using fake number plates. Mr Akoten began his tenure to deal specifically with the counterfeit industry, which is quite lucrative. Respect for government property is an integral role that comes with being a state official. State officials should serve the public with utmost respect, professionalism, accountability and diligence.

The writer is a journalism student at the University of Nairobi and intern writer at the Kenya Free Press.

Stay Connected