Anti-counterfeit agency boss at the centre of fake number plate scam fired

Former Anti-Counterfeit Authority boss John Akoten. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mr Akoten did not even last a month in the top office at the agency where he could have easily replaced Elema Halake, who had ended his three-year stay at the helm of the parastatal.
  • Last month, Ms Mutahi tried to defend Dr Akoten’s appointment back to the top seat at the agency, saying the fake number plate saga had been ‘settled’ without disclosing how it was resolved.

The Anti-Counterfeit Authority (ACA) has quietly removed John Akoten, the agency’s official at the centre of a fake number plate scam in 2016, from the position of acting executive director after backlash over his appointment last month.

The ACA board chaired by Flora Mutahi replaced Mr Akoten late last month after his appointment caused a stir within the organisation. Senior managers are said to have questioned how the tainted man was sanitised to lead the organisation meant to fight counterfeits despite having been implicated in faking a number plate for his official car.

The appointment was even contested in court after the Sunday Nation revealed it in August. It landed before Justice Stephen Radido of the Employment and Labour Relations Court — who this week awarded Sh1 to former PS Lilian Omollo – and the board was directed to freeze the appointment.

ACA is now headed by Ms Fridah Kaberia, who has been the deputy director in charge of corporate services.

The board, in a tactful move, said her appointment in acting capacity would only be for six months before the agency is merged with two others under the proposals contained in the parastatal reforms.

Seamless service

“As the acting Executive Director, Ms Kaberia will provide leadership by overseeing the overall corporate strategy and seamless service delivery in the fight against counterfeits for six months pending the finalisation of the merger of Kenya Industrial Property Institute, Kenya Copyright Board and the Anti-Counterfeit Agency,” the board wrote in the internal communication announcing her appointment.

Mr Akoten did not even last a month in the top office at the agency where he could have easily replaced Elema Halake, who had ended his three-year stay at the helm of the parastatal.

He failed to get the same job in 2017 after the private number plates for his official car were found to have been forged in River Road, Nairobi, to allow him to use the car for private matters undeterred.

The 2016 saga also revealed that he had altered the tracking components of the Volkswagen Passat for what he termed ‘private and security’ reasons but which internal investigators found to be a scheme to use the vehicle for his private errands.

As fate would have it, the vehicle was badly damaged in an accident while bearing the forged private number plates instead of the official blue ones.

A committee investigating the circumstances of the crash heard how Mr Akoten gave his trusted driver money to go and fake a set of the civilian plates and replace the blue ones.

“Due to police check units in Isiolo, Nakuru and Kitale, the acting Executive Director instructed his driver to make a private number plate after the initial one was withdrawn.

“He gave the driver Sh2,500 and he went to make it along Kirinyaga Road in Nairobi. The transport officer also had his controls over the Passat withdrawn after Mr Akoten instructed him on several occasions to remove the vehicle from tracking but he declined since they were just verbal instructions (emails available to prove),” read the investigation report on the accident.

The scheme could have gone undiscovered were it not for the December 21, 2014, accident that damaged the car beyond repair despite several attempts to have it repaired and returned to the office.

Confidential

Last month, Ms Mutahi tried to defend Dr Akoten’s appointment back to the top seat at the agency, saying the fake number plate saga had been ‘settled’ without disclosing how it was resolved.

“The issue was sorted out completely and what had to be done was done. I can’t tell you exactly what was done as that is confidential,” he said yesterday.

The vehicle, a VW Passat KBQ633D, is currently tucked in a basement parking at the National Water Plaza on Dunga road where the ACA’s offices were relocated.

ACA insiders, however, allege the case was swept under the carpet and given time to be forgotten about.

Some insiders claimed Dr Akoten was surcharged a ‘paltry amount’ for the car then valued at Sh3.8 million.

The number plate saga was among the grounds for the petition to remove Dr Akoten as the two petitioners; Fredrick Jowi and George Bala.

“Dr Akoten acted as the Executive Director of the Anti-Counterfeit Authority when he was involved in integrity issues including forged civilian number plates for a motor vehicle belonging to the Anti Counterfeit Authority which forgery is under active investigations,” the petitioners swore in affidavits.

The car number plate saga is said to have played a major role in locking out Dr Akoten, who had acted for more than three years, from being confirmed the Executive Director of the Agency in 2017 when the then Trade and Industrialisation secretary Adan Mohamed appointed Mr Halake.

Fighting fakes

Although that may have been his only punishment, the fake number plate saga nearly sent his driver home after he was accused of being an accomplice in the ironical twist that placed the agency tasked with fighting fakes at the center of a fake number plate saga.

The agency’s transport officer at the time of the incident is said to have also reigned shortly after Mr Akoten instructed that he surrender the tracking of his two official cars then.

The car driver had admitted to the investigators that the vehicle had been used severally for private errands including taking family members to a graduation ceremony. His boss however denied faking the number plates and told the committee investigating the case that he had not even realised the car had a private number plate despite using it for more than 8 months to the time it crashed. He had however admitted to the committee that he wanted the tracking privileges amended.

"When people can view and see where you are, it can actually create a lot of problems, “, he said. Pressed to explain whether the reasons to remain in exclusive view of the car was private and not security, he said, “It can be both.”

@Edwincowino edokoth@ke.nationmedia.com

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