Fraud and theft cases rise on tough economy

Kenyans are opting to cut corners to survive the surge in living costs spiking cases of fraud and theft among corporates and famers.

Companies have reported cases of increasing internal fraud, contraband and theft of produce in recent weeks indicating a growing trend of errant behavior.

British American Tobacco (BAT) Kenya claims that illegal cigarette sales ate up about 25.5 percent of the market last year. In comparison, the menace consumed 11.3 percent of the multinational’s market in 2021, resulting in heavy revenue losses. Part of the reason illegal sales are picking up is due to jump on excise duty that is pushing up prices

Taxes on cigarettes have cumulatively grown by over 50 percent since July 2019. The surge is forcing consumers to seek cheaper products in the illegal market that is facilitating the contraband.

Safaricom also announced it fired 33 employees in the year ended March 2023 for fraud-related offences. This was a 37.5 percent jump from the 24 who were fired in the previous year.

Meanwhile in Gatundu North Constituency, Kiambu County, avocado farmers are counting huge losses. The growers are experiencing rising cases of theft from their farms due to illegal harvesting of fruits.

Theft of avocado in farms

Farmers are blaming young males for the rising wave of crime. The thieves get Kes3 per piece of avocado on selling to the middlemen compared to between Kes10-20 that farmers get from exporters buying at their farms.

In Kirinyaga, small-scale tea directors have put on notice illegal tea hawkers who are buying the produce from their members. The profit-sapping hawkers pay a meagre price of Kes25 per kilogramme compared to an average of Kes50. The directors warn that ongoing poaching could encourage tea theft in Kenya and huge losses to farmers.

There is a possibility that crime rates will rise as more people find it hard to make ends meet. Latest Kenya National Bureau of Statistics data shows growing strain as crime, especially, theft is on the increase. Economic Survey 2023 shows the number of offences reported for stealing increased by 25.1 per cent to 14,718 last year.

The highest increase in crimes on police records was theft of stock (36.4 percent). Traffic offences (28.5 percent) and robbery (27.2 percent) followed closely.

Nairobi city, Kiambu and Meru command stations accounted for the highest proportion of crimes reported at 9.7, 8.9 and 6.5 per cent, respectively, in 2022. In 2022, however, police recovered 235 illegally held firearms compared to 98 firearms recovered in 2021.

Street demonstrations against the cost of living such as the six major protest lined up against the government today is also offering criminals an opportunity for theft and looting driving up cases of crime.

Read also: Agriculture holds up decelerating economy

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