National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA) has dispatched 4,000 to Mombasa this week to ease shortage that has affected importers of second-hand vehicles.
Another consignment of the plates was to leave Nairobi for Mombasa last evening, NTSA Director General Francis Meja said.
In an interview with the Nation, Mr Meja also disclosed that the authority had complied with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s directive to keep off the roads.
A total of 100 police officers who had been attached to NTSA, he said, have been released to the traffic department while 78 members of staff who had been assigned on the roads had been recalled.
“We are okay with the directive. We support the directive. Our functions are wide. We will re-assign our officers who were on the roads…we are re-organising to focus on our mandate,” Mr Meja said on phone.
Asked what will happen to the vehicles that were being used by NTSA to man roads, Mr Meja said “we are still discussing.” He was however certain the cars will be used for other assignments.
On January 9, President Kenyatta directed that all NTSA officers be withdrawn from Kenyan roads.
The President said traffic police officers should take over duties on Kenyan highways.
He said the latest directive is part of efforts by the government to curb road crashes.
Mr Meja refuted reports that 6,000 imported vehicles could not leave the port of Mombasa due to the shortage.
Last week, Car Importers Association of Kenya chairman Peter Otieno said 6,493 vehicles that were lying at the port due to lack of number plates were attracting storage charges of Sh19.4 million a day.
He linked the shortage of the plates to delays by the supplier –the Kenya Prisons Service. The plates are made at Kamiti Maximum Security Prison in Nairobi.
“There’s no cause for alarm, the shortage has been cleared,” Mr Meja said.
He said the new generation number plates to be introduced in March would fully address the frequent shortage as the current ones are made manually.
“The making of the current number plates is 100 per cent manual. New technology will be used to make the new ones which will be automated and will have high security features,” Mr Meja said.
He said the new plates would be expensive than the current ones and have much better quality thus addressing complaints by users.
The new plates are supposed to put Kenya at par with many countries in the developed world and are meant to assist police track down car thieves, terrorists and other criminals in real time.
By simply screening over a number plate with a hand-held machine, police would instantly obtain the name of the owner of the vehicle, the registration number, engine and chassis numbers and a history of previous owners.
The plates are thus expected to give the police an advantage in tracking down stolen vehicles, as well as those used to commit other crimes like carjacking and hit-and-run accidents.