Digital vehicle number plates launched to fight crime

It will take NTSA 18 months to make plates available to all vehicle owners

In Summary
  • Chips in the plates allow tracing car ownership by law enforcement agencies.
  • Government to gazette the digital plates programme before rolling it out in October this year. 

The National Transport Safety Authority has 18 months to roll out the new number plates across the country, Interior CS Fred Matiang'i has said.

Interior PS Karanja Kibicho, ICT CS Joe Mucheru, CS Ministry of Transport James Macharia, CS Interior Fred Matiang'i during roll out of Kenya's digital registration plates at GSU camp in Ruiru on August 30
DIGITAL PLATES: Interior PS Karanja Kibicho, ICT CS Joe Mucheru, CS Ministry of Transport James Macharia, CS Interior Fred Matiang'i during roll out of Kenya's digital registration plates at GSU camp in Ruiru on August 30

You will be required to have a digital vehicle number plate in 18 months to fight crime in general, fraudsters, log book scams and terrorism.

The plates with embedded security chips were announced on Tuesday at the General Service Unit camp, Recce headquarters, in Ruiru. That's where they will be produced.

Interior Cabinet secretary Fred Matiang'i, who announced the plates, said the terrorist attack on DusitD2 on January 15 to 16, 2019, was enabled by use of forged number plates.

The terrorists used a cloned number plate to move with a car loaded with explosives and weapons ahead of the attack that left 22 people dead, he said.

This marked the start of reforms in the motor vehicle industry.

The digital plates costing Sh3,000 will make undetected cloning impossible.

"The work is being done by a multi-agency unit of the security sector and is part of the reforms initiated by President Uhuru Kenyatta after the 2019 Dusit attack," he said. 

"When the NTSA team calls on Kenyans to change the plates, let us obey and get it done within those 18 months,"  the CS said.

Matiang'i lead a team of senior officials in launching the plates.

The authority will gazette the issuance of digital plates before they are effective from October 1 this year.

The plates  will make it easier to find stolen cars and trace ownership.

They will contain information about the genuine owner or owners and about the status of auto insurance.

They will make it easier to find stolen vehicles and vehicles linked to crime.

Kenya has 4.8 million vehicles, up from 3.2 million last year.

The plates are linked to the vehicle chassis numbers. They have security features, some physically visible, some visible only by law enforcement agencies.

They comply with international law and standards for such registration plates. They comply with the amended Traffic Act of 2016.

The plates will begin with the KDK series.

Matiang'i said the Kenya Revenue Authority will be informed of the chassis numbers of imported vehicles and points of entry to crack down on tax evasion in the car-selling business.

He said the new-generation digital plates mark a historic moment in securitising vehicle registration. They will eliminating loopholes exploited by financial fraudsters, and unscrupulous motor vehicle importers, criminals and terrorists.

The CS said data will also be shared with banking institutions to enable them to curb fraud and forgery involved in securing funds when motor vehicles are used for collateral.

“We have had cases where banks hold fake papers in the name of log books held as collateral and it became difficult to trace the real owners of the loans taken,” he said.

New features will address that problem.

Matiang’i said they have also targeted second-hand motor vehicle dealers who avoid paying taxes. They divert vehicles meant for export to the local market, among other things.

The new plates, he said, will also synchronise data sets on the origin of motor vehicles.

This will also help deal with tax evasion at border points.

"If this is fully followed and implemented, we will deal with tax evasion sometimes at the point of entry on importation of motor vehicles," Matiang'i said.

The new security features will also fight transnational motor vehicle theft.

"We will not end up with vehicles that were destined for neighbouring countries." 

“We have streamlined the sector by having some of the dealers deported. We must clean the industry for a safe Kenya,” he said.

Transport Cabinet Secretary James Macharia said the new plates will cover 12 categories of vehicles in line with Legal Notice 62 of 2016.

It will allow for easy monitoring of vehicles entering Kenya, which is a major transit hub in East Africa.

Matiang'i was also accompanied by CS Joseph Mucheru (ICT) and NTSA director general George Njao, amongst other senior security officials.

(Edited by V. Graham)

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