EDITORIAL: Kenya Power should not punish token users

Editorials

EDITORIAL: Kenya Power should not punish token users

A Kenya Power technician at work. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Kenya Power has, once again, got it all wrong in attempting to assign blame on innocent power consumers for having purchased fraudulently generated electricity tokens. Internal investigations at Kenya Power revealed that 13 staff members fraudulently generated tokens and sold them to unsuspecting customers through third-party agents.

The utility company has, however, taken the easy route of punishing the victims. As a result, about 3,500 customers have been forced by Kenya Power to sign documents committing to pay back part, if not all of the Sh35.3 million said to have been lost in the fraud. Some have also been made to report to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI).

We fully support prosecution of customers where there is clear evidence of collusion with the fraudulent Kenya Power employees. As observed by the Senate Committee on energy, however, Kenya Power cannot claim to have been innocent in a case where its staff went out and sold the fraudulent tokens.

The utility firm is bound by whatever its employees do. The staff generated tokens, and even had the discounted vouchers openly advertised on social media for months without a word from the firm’s management.

Like any rational consumer looking for bargains in the market place, customers who saw these ads quickly placed orders and realised the tokens were for real. How were consumers supposed to know that the tokens were being generated fraudulently when they have no access to the Kenya Power’s system? To members of the public, Kenya Power exists in the image of its employees, whether they are meter readers, token generators, or site assessors.

Instead of taking responsibility for failure to build proper internal controls, Kenya Power has found a scapegoat in the customer. That is a clear monopolistic mindset. It assumes that the market will take whatever in presents on the table because there is no alternative. To get electricity, all the prepaid customers must buy the tokens, thereby enabling the Kenya Power to deduct money stolen with the help of its employees.

The Senate Energy Committee must not relent in calling for justice for the innocent Kenya Power customers. The same way financial institutions compensate customers who lose money through internal fraud, so should Kenya Power be made to reimburse token buyers whose cash it has been deducting.

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