The tricky nature of corruption risk management in Africa, part 1

Despite the establishment of several anti-corruption agencies, corruption and fraud risk remain top value destroyers in Africa, and the world at large. The negative

Despite the establishment of several anti-corruption agencies, corruption and fraud risk remain top value destroyers in Africa, and the world at large.

The negative impact of corruption risk on economies is well documented. Abuse of the position of trust through influence peddling or other underhand methods has a pervasive impact on the people and the economy at large, including:

  • Denial of justice by corrupt court officials leads to unfair resource allocation and injustice to the innocent. Early in my career, around 2005, I applied and obtained a bank loan to buy land. I bought an acre of land on a hill overlooking the magnificent Lake Victoria in Kitende, along Entebbe Road. I was happily repaying the over Ugx. 50m loan at the time; when one weekend I decided to visit the land to start a small project as I planned to set up a chicken project on the land. I was surprised. I found workers very busy erecting there a house, at the foundation level!

 Surprised, I approached the workers and they referred me to their boss. The next morning, I was not even allowed to branch to the land site. I was told by my lawyers that he also had a land title, just like the one I had. Being a law-abiding citizen, I took matters to the courts of law. However, when you are just starting in your career (I had worked in a bank for over 2 years) and had a loan to service, I was like a headless chicken running for safety only that without a head it cannot see the safe place. On one side the bank loan needed servicing, and on the other hand, I was required to attend court sessions without fail.

Every time I asked for permission from my supervisor to attend the court session, the case would be postponed due to several court case backlog being heard that day. Every time our case came up, it was never heard, due to time overruns. They would just mention the case and ask whether all parties are present, and if for some reason something however small was a miss, they just said, “case postponed to come next month, the same day at 10, another case.”

You cannot believe that a land case could drag on for 3, 6, 9, or more years. All that while, some people occupy the land, and you have no way to regain your rights. It is an interesting simple game: let them go to court but allow no chance to hear them out. Every time the matter comes up, postpone the case. Wait the day when they do not appear, and then give a warning and notice that next time the matter shall be decided in their absence. There are many reasons to justify that, one of them is “they lost interest in the case” and another could be “contempt of court”, for missing court in your case!

Of course, not all judicial officers operate like this. But some people have studied the system and will frustrate people until they break, by missing, just one time! Alas, that is the time when the court will hear the matter.

I lost land in such a scheme whereby a busy working professional servicing a loan could not attend all sessions. You go to court for a session at 9:00 am. You wait until 11:30 am, and then the case is adjourned to the following month or year! Slowly, you start not taking the sessions seriously. You make a big mistake when you miss just one session. Never.

Remember, in cases involving land matters, the owner is their best lawyer. Work with your lawyer, closely. Be consistent and persistent. This case was close to my heart. It made me enrol for training in fraud examination – and graduate as a certified fraud examiner (CFE). Although I attained the certification after I had lost my land, my training allowed me to go back in time to know exactly how I was duped, and how the fraudsters did it.

If we do not learn from our mistakes, it is difficult to improve. When I reviewed my case, I discovered a sophisticated land fraud involving so many people in strategic offices, that makes it difficult for the good guys to win. In the next issue, I explore how my land was stolen, the mistakes I made during search and purchase, the conflict of interest of key land officials who were involved in the transaction and why it was impossible to win in court.

If you would love to read part 2, comment below. In case you have been a victim of land fraud or other corruption schemes, do share your lessons as well.

To be continued.

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