Nowhere to hide: Chapter 1: Are you a lawyer? Part 3

“Sorry for keeping you waiting. My flight was on time. But the road trip from Entebbe airport to this hotel is a long one.

“Sorry for keeping you waiting. My flight was on time. But the road trip from Entebbe airport to this hotel is a long one. The Express Way is so swift until you arrive somewhere near the city. It is a deadlock. We could not move. The journey is exhausting. I had to first take a shower and realized that our appointment time is past”, he says as he squeezes my hand hard.

Continued from part 2…

In our kind of work, we are not allowed to show any weakness. I too, hold him firmly as I welcome them to Kampala. “This is our Kampala. However fast you may want to move, something or someone somewhere will slow you. Better take it slow but sure”, I say.

They nod in unison as if to agree to my observation.

I am Mustapha Bernabas. I am a fraud examiner and governance expert. Nice meeting you, I say before resuming my seat.

Nice meeting you Bernabas, the tall man says.  Call me James. This is Peter. He is based here in Kampala as CFO at our Ugandan offices, which gave us your name and contacts. The local CEO, who gave us your contacts, travelled and is on leave.

You come highly recommended.

We suspect this case involves both Kenya and Uganda and that is why we need someone like you based in Kampala to handle it. We shall support you in Kenya with our other partners, he adds, if you need our help.

I hope you read the email I sent yesterday. So how do we begin? James asks.

I love most Kenyans, they tend to cut the chase quickly and move to the point.

Thanks for flying down here for this meeting, I say.

You need to first clarify a few issues to inform the engagement letter. Once you accept by signing, work shall commence. To say the investigation is successful, what top five questions would you want to be answered? Do you intend to go to court? Who shall be the final user of our investigations report? Your email did not have the terms of reference, may you please write one and send to my email?

Since we started, Peter had not said anything. He suddenly interrupts. “Are you a lawyer?” to which I answer in the negative. Why do you ask? I say.

It is lawyers who ask the kind of things you are asking; he says as if irritated by my questions.

“I work with lawyers and law enforcement officers. Investigations like this require a strong foundation concerning paperwork and chain of custody. Later, counsels of either side could ask to look at any of these documents including the minutes of this meeting which I will share hereafter,” I give a speech.

“But we sent you an email. And we are meeting here. Why do you need the terms of reference? Just go and write an engagement letter based on what we discuss here. Time is not on our side,” says Peter.

It is one of our consulting credos never to urge with a prospect.  However, I see this as an opportunity to demonstrate my credentials. I decide to change the gears…

James, do you have anything to comment on what Peter is saying? I try to set them up.

Yes sure, I have taken notes to your requests. I am going to work with my team to give you these records. I find your requests are fair – as the client, we must state the terms of reference against which you will provide a complete financial and technical proposal.

I feel relief internally.

I turn to James and say, good, I think all matters are settled. But I would love to hear it from you, what do you think happened? Who are the suspects? How do you think they did it? How did you discover the fraud? What have you done to stop re-occurrence?

James, the tall guy who flew in from Nairobi takes a sip from his wine glass, looks at me and says, these are the exact questions we want you to provide answers.  I then ask about the timelines and the main user of our report, which he replies. He says the group CEO, he is the final user. And that he is working closely with the board on the issue.

That is why I love investigations. Which other jobs would easily get the group CEO to fly over from Nairobi for a meeting in Kampala? Most of the time, it is me who travels. That is what the fraud examiners’ job entails. I order for another soda, as the Protea bar gets filled up and noise interrupts our corner talk.

I ask for the CEO’s private email for our communications going forward to which Peter, the local contact, tries to object. “This is official work. We are not allowed to communicate using our private emails.”

I think quickly about a tactical response. “I need to reach you at any time. Work emails tend to slow the process. Plus no one knows who else checks the office emails, even that of the CEO. This work is very discreet lest our progress is frustrated”, I say.

We exchange contacts and bid farewell.

Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.

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