How brokers mint millions in Kenya ID fraud

A stack of uncollected Kenya identity cards. Photo/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Applicants pay brokers some fee for being assisted and the brokers also get paid by the bureau officers for every transaction they push through.
  • Most documents are forged with the knowledge of the bureau officers.
    The audit also questions the recruitment of 1,600 staff members to speed up issuance of national identity cards ahead of the 2007 General Election.

Fake documents are being used in the registration of persons in the country, a damning audit reveals.

Most of the forged documents are presented to officers of the National Registration Bureau by ‘brokers’ who have infiltrated the system and hover around registration centres to ‘help’ applicants for birth certificates and national identity cards.

The Report of the Examination into the Systems, Procedures and Practices of the National Registration Bureau, singles out birth certificates as the most abused, with brokers accused of giving misleading information to unsuspecting applicants. The brokers work hand-in-hand with the bureau officers.

The issue of national identity cards was also grossly abused, making it possible for foreigners to acquire the vital documents and illegally assume Kenyan citizenship and, eventually, passports.

“Brokers have infiltrated the process and their success is dependent on the support they get from bureau officers,” notes the audit undertaken on behalf of the Bureau by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

In their underhand deals, the brokers rip-off thousands of shillings from members of the public, and also smooth the way for unscrupulous foreigners out to get Kenyan documentation.

Applicants pay brokers some fee for being assisted and the brokers also get paid by the bureau officers for every transaction they push through.

Kacc investigators caught the brokers red-handed assisting clients to fill out documents. “The brokers then take the documents to different offices within the bureau on behalf of the clients,” the report says. This is done after the clients have already parted with their money.

Other independent investigations show that the brokers do not spare even those whose documents are in order. They solicit bribes to hasten the process.

At an extra fee, those lacking the proper documents are helped to acquire them. Most of these are forged with the knowledge of the bureau officers.

According to the report, the buck of the brokers menace stops at the office of the Permanent Secretary at the Immigration and Registration of Persons ministry. “He is able to ensure that they are weeded out. The ministry can sensitise the public on the processes of registration so that they do not fall prey,” the report recommends.

The PS, it is further recommended, should fast-track implementation of the Integrated Population Registration System, a computer programme, to reduce human interaction at the bureau offices.

The Kacc team also cited registration of children and spouses of civil servants at border districts as a loophole that can be used to register non-Kenyans. The report says that the requirement of an official letter and the civil servant’s identity card is not adequate.

In the array of gaps that plague the process, the investigators punched holes at the composition of vetting committees at the borders and questioned their integrity.

Members of these committees are appointed without following a clear system. “Some elders have overstayed. Some are appointed out of favouritism,” the report observes.

The audit also questions the recruitment of 1,600 staff members to speed up issuance of national identity cards ahead of the 2007 General Election. The anti-graft body said the recruitment was unplanned and that it led to overstaffing in most registration centres countrywide.

Some of the new workers, initially taken on board on contract basis, were posted to centres that did not need them, said the report. There are 600 registration centres in 154 districts countrywide.

“Although some district registrars were asked to submit staff requirements, the distribution of the recruited staff was done without following the stated requirements,” said the report.

In one case, a district that requested 10 additional staff ended up receiving 42, four times more than what it asked for. Another one got 39 new members of staff, although it had requested for 23.

“The recruitment was done without proper planning leading to idle capacity and wastage of resources,” said the report handed to the department last month.

It recommended that the relevant ministry conduct a comprehensive staff needs assessment in order to ensure recruitment and posting was done in accordance with identified needs.

On Friday, the deputy director of the bureau, Mr Mumia Kisabuli, said all the 1,600 staff were later given permanent jobs to address the big shortage facing the institution.

He said the bureau is the largest in the ministry, adding that it faced a serious staff shortage given that registration of persons was a continuous process. “Even with that, we still have a shortage,” he said.

Mr Kisabuli said the bureau had moved fast to start implementing the report by forming committees that will execute a formidable work plan.

“We are confident that many of the issues raised by the report will be addressed when our computerised system of issuing third generation identity cards is implemented,” he said.

The report proposes that some positions, including that of provincial coordinators, be scrapped since they were found to be irrelevant. The team found out that some of the officials did not have much work to do and that they did not have well defined roles.

“Staff attached to the office were more often idle since most of the registration duties are carried out at the district level,” said the report. The probe showed that some members of staff served at the same work station for a long time.

“Long service in one station builds up familiarity and is an opportunity to create corruption networks,” read the report. It recommended regular rotation of staff to help dismantle corruption networks.

The examination report found out that some officials of the bureau were facing disciplinary cases because of forgery of documents and financial impropriety. Others were being investigated over claims of soliciting bribes.

Mr Kisabuli said the department did not condone corruption among its staff, adding that some culprits had been dismissed.

The report also said that police stations never issued receipts to people who lost identity cards whenever they sought abstracts following loss of the documents. Abstracts cost Sh20 each.
Many loopholes

The Kacc report said there were many loopholes and inefficiencies in the registration process. Many of the inefficiencies were reported in identification and vetting processes leading to delays in issuance of the documents. Loss of documents and intervention by intermediaries in the process were also rampant.

The report said there were cases where bureau officers demanded bribes with a promise to fast-track the issuance of identity cards.

In some cases, the report said, foreigners were registered illegally by corrupt officers.

Some politicians interfered in the issuance of identity cards especially in areas of their perceived political strength, the report said.