Anti-counterfeit agency to be headed by man at centre of fake number plates saga

Former Anti-Counterfeit Authority boss John Akoten. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The appointment puts Mr Akoten back to the top seat from where he was forced to take a lower role after the private number plates for his official car were found to have been forged in River Road.

The Anti-Counterfeit Authority has appointed John Akoten, the agency’s official at the centre of a fake number plate scam in 2016, to the position of Acting Executive Director.

Sunday Nation has obtained a confidential memo from the board that informed the staff of the new development after the agency’s top boss, Elema Halake, went on terminal leave last week, ending his three-year stay at the helm of the parastatal.

The ACA board, chaired by Flora Mutahi, announced the appointment through the memo after a meeting last weekend in which the controversial decision was reached.

“This is to notify you that Mr Elema Halake will be proceeding on annual leave from Monday 24th to 31st August 2020 and thereafter proceed on terminal leave from 1st to 30th September 2020. The Board in its 71st Full Board meeting appointed Dr John Akoten as the Ag. Executive Director. Kindly let us give him all the support he requires to continue steering ACA to greater heights,” read the Sunday night memo emailed by ACA Deputy Director Corporate Services, Fridah Kaberia.

The appointment puts Mr Akoten back to the top seat from where he was forced to take a lower role after the private number plates for his official car were found to have been forged in River Road, Nairobi to allow him use the car for private uses undeterred.

He was also found to have altered the tracking components of the Volkswagen Passat for what he termed as ‘private and security’ reasons, but which internal investigators found to be a scheme to use the vehicle for his own 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 bad 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and Kitale, the Acting Executive Director instructed his driver to make private number plate after the initial one was withdrawn.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 the Mr Akoten instructed him severally 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.

Ms Mutahi confirmed that Dr Akoten had been appointed to the top office after the fake number plate saga had been ‘settled’ without disclosing how it was resolved.

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

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

Surcharge

ACA insiders, however, allege that the case was swept under the carpet and given time to be forgotten with some suggesting Dr Akoten was surcharged a ‘paltry amount’ for the car then valued at Sh3.8 million.

“Nothing much happened to him, in fact he paid not more than Sh200,000 and each time the auditors ask about this, they are given different explanations and the matter is kept off the official audit report. The car has been to various private garages but it was damaged beyond repair. All l the mechanics have done is bodyworks forcing ACA to tow it to our parking lots along Dunga road,” said an intimated a senior official who did not want to be named for fear of backlash from the new boss.

The incident 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.

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.

Government Chief of Staff and head of public service Joseph Kinyua had written a letter requiring all parastatals to ensure all government vehicles had the required blue number plates in April 2014. The yellow and white number plates were to be destroyed according to the directive.

The Chief of staff had pointed out that the use of such number plates did not offer any security advantages and instead encouraged misuse specially to run private errands, contrary to the code of regulations.

Mr Akoten’s driver had admitted to using the vehicle 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 private number plate despite using it for more than 8 months to the time it was 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.” 

It is not clear how the board overlooked the incident that has never been concluded despite complaints to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission as old as June 2015 over the incident.

Through Oriaro and Company advocates the petition to EACC also accused Mr Akoten of interfering with any evidence on the fake number plate saga after it was revealed and ‘obstructing justice’ through his juniors who he had used to alter records that would implicate him further.

@Edwincowino; [email protected]

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