Stealing From The Boss: White Collar Crime In Kenya

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Written by Frank Mutulu

Court filings and company reports in the last quarter exposed serious employee theft issues in corporate Kenya, but few employers go after the perpetrators — often because they lack the technology to do so, experts say.

Britam, an insurance company with more $400 million in assets, went to court seeking to have four senior staff return $43.3 million they allegedly stole.

Global consultancy PwC said that employees who use their workstations to rob their employers constitute one of the biggest threats to Kenyan companies. Procurement fraud and asset misappropriation are some of the biggest forms of theft.

To protect their reputations, most companies prefer to let employees go unpunished as opposed to seeking legal redress which would make public the details, according to PwC.

Security analysts say that this silence by companies may be an incentive for employees to keep stealing and bleeding companies of millions.

George Njoroge is CEO of East African Data Handlers, a firm that recovers data and carries out computer forensics. The phenomenon is fuelled by a get-rich-at-whatever-cost mentality, he said.

Companies should be investing in data analysis of video footage — especially in retail shops which lose millions due to conspiracy between tellers and customers who do not want to pay the full pull price for their goods.

Andrew Franklin, a attorney and retired Marine, consults on security issues for various media and other clients. One of the biggest problems is that perpetrators are rewarded — not prosecuted — and don’t end up behind bars.

“The fundamental problem is that no one is punished,” Franklin told AFKInsider.

Weak laws against money laundering in Kenya and a lack of skills in the law enforcement agencies further aid and abet this form of economic crime, he added.

Other security experts say that the root of the problem can be found in the corporate work ethic and an inertia by companies to invest in technologies that can save millions.

Njoroge told AFKInsider that banks in Kenya lose on average $111,000 each per month through fraud and with 45 lenders, this translates to roughly $5 million.

“Companies also do not do background checks on employees so when they move, they migrate problems to new companies,” said Njoroge.

Some companies in Kenya have however begun to take a serious stand against rogue employees who steal from them.

Safaricom, East Africa’s largest and most profitable company, publicly admitting it has an internal theft problem and took action to deal with it. In 2012 it released a report which showed 56 employees were fired for stealing. Seven of them were reported to law enforcement agencies.

“We do not give you the option to resign when we fire you and if there is enough evidence we take you to court,” Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore said in a statement in November. “We take ethics and corruption very seriously.”

Safaricom has fired 159 employees since 2012.

KCB, the largest bank in East Africa with $5 billion in assets, has begun producing similar reports. The bank said that it fired 90 employees in 2013 and some were involved in fraud.

As more companies begin to publicly admit to the problem and pursue culprits, losses will reduce, some stakeholders say.