Kenya’s top telecoms operator Safaricom sacked 52 employees suspected of involvement in fraudulent activities in the year ended March, reports the Daily Nation newspaper.
The number is 16 more than the 36 it sent home the previous year.
Safaricom, which is Kenya’s most profitable company, said those dismissed were involved in asset misappropriation, fraudulent expense claims and corruption.
“While the number of investigations carried out during the year was substantively the same as Financial Year 2016, the number of staff dismissed for fraudulent behaviour increased to 52,” Safaricom said in its latest sustainability report.
The rise in the number of those sacked is attributed to new and stringent measures that helped bust previously undetected syndicates in the period under review.
“This was primarily due to an enhanced review process, which targeted a single area of concern and unearthed fraud schemes that were previously concealed,” the report says.
Dismissed employees were found to have been involved in theft, asset misappropriation as well as policy breaches involving unauthorised access to data systems. Those sent packing were also involved in fraudulent SIM card swaps and breach of rules governing money transfer service M-Pesa start key issuance.
“While we are disappointed by the number of people who have been involved in fraudulent activities, it is encouraging to note the increasing effectiveness of our investigations and clear illustration of a ‘no tolerance’ approach from management,” the firm said.
The number of employees suspected of crime and investigated rose to 33 compared to 31 a year earlier during the same period.
Three cases were reported to the police for prosecution, higher than the two reported in a similar period last year.
Safaricom, which is East Africa’s largest company by asset base, said it was arming its customers with skills that will enable them to safeguard, detect and prevent social engineering attacks and criminal syndicates that target M-Pesa users.
Safaricom has since 2014 hosted a mobile money investigations unit comprising officers from the National Police Service.
“We also increased the number of staff monitoring suspicious activity on the M-Pesa platform and implemented anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing measures. This has enabled us to achieve our target of investigating and reporting suspicious M-Pesa transactions within seven days.”
Last November, the National Treasury warned that the collapse of Safaricom’s M-Pesa service would cause widespread disruption in the economy, revealing how deeply entrenched the mobile money platform has become in Kenya.
Recent studies have shown that tech-savvy criminals exploit weaknesses in IT systems to steal money, demand ransom or sabotage corporations. Several studies have urged firms to embrace digital technologies to counter the disruption by financial innovations.
Kenya lost about Sh18 billion to cybercrime in 2016, according to an ICT security survey conducted by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and the Communications Authority of Kenya.
Safaricom requires all its employees to undergo ethics training at least once a year, focusing on anti-corruption and bribery initiatives. The firm has sacked a total of 130 employees since 2014 over theft and bribery.