Lack of coordination at border posts hampers fight against scrap metal smuggling-KRA

Photo credit: File /Nation Media Group

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has pointed a finger at security agencies along the border for failing to coordinate with their officers in tackling the rampant smuggling of scrap metal to neighbouring countries.

KRA, through its acting Commissioner for Customs and Border Control, Pamela Ahogo, said criminals were taking advantage of the porous border coupled with lack of coordination among agencies to smuggle scrap metals into neighbouring countries.

"We have written to the Ministry of Interior requesting a meeting to discuss this vice, it has become a major concern on our side," Ms Ahogo said.

Ms Ahogo noted that despite the ban on the export of scrap metal, some traders were still exporting mainly scrap automotive batteries using the unauthorised routes within the border.

While praising some KRA officials, especially those at the Taita-Taveta border, Ms Ahogo said there was need for more collaboration between KRA officials and security agencies to end the vice.

The KRA warning comes just a week after customs officials at the Taveta border intercepted two trucks exporting scrap batteries to Tanzania without the proper documents.

One of the trucks has since been impounded as no one has claimed it.

Ms Ahogo lamented that the KRA as a single entity cannot stop the smuggling of scrap metal to neighbouring countries, saying there is need for concerted efforts by other agencies.

Earlier this year, a driver was arrested and the truck impounded at Oloitoktok in Kajiado County while transporting scrap batteries to Tanzania.

The two drivers were later convicted and fined Sh300,000 and their trucks were forfeited to the state.

Mamo Mamo, Nema's director-general, said the authority, in partnership with other relevant government agencies, had adopted an intelligence-led approach to enforcement, gathering information before taking action.

"This approach has really worked and has really borne fruit with the arrest of offenders dealing in hazardous waste along our porous borders," he said.

Scrap metal dealers have opted to use unmanned porous borders to transport the items after the police and KRA stepped up checks at border points.

Unscrupulous traders are using the unmanned points in Busia, Namanga, Taveta and Lungalunga as the main routes for the illegal scrap trade.

Offenders face up to 20 years in prison or a fine of Sh20 million, or both. The owners of the two trucks carrying the scrap batteries will also forfeit the vehicles to the state under the Scrap Metals Act.

 Kenya banned the export of scrap metal, which includes spent lead acid batteries (SLABs), through a law enacted in 2015.

The legislation is meant to support the retention of raw materials for value addition and sets strict conditions under which lead exports would be permitted.

Automotive battery manufacturers have been pushing for full implementation of the legislation over the past few years, as it is critical to safeguarding jobs.

Automotive battery manufacturers rely on lead that is extracted and recycled to make batteries, known as recycled SLABs.

The East African region has two lead-acid battery manufacturers, Associated Battery Manufacturers and Uganda Batteries Ltd.