Reviews & Profiles

Middlemen who reap where they do not sow

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By ESTHER OLUKA

Posted  Thursday, April 10   2014 at  01:00

In Summary

When you need an official document or requirement, there are always those people who offer to facilitate the process faster.

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Cunning middlemen or women have made it their business to take advantage of people’s desperate situations to rip them off. They offer to ease the burden of getting a service at a fee.

Consequently, they thrive on colluding with either people inside the system, and make public services hard to access for anyone who is not willing to part with a bribe. Deal with them at your peril.
These middlemen position themselves strategically inside or outside buildings where those services are rendered. Then, they will suddenly ambush anyone who is making their way to the premises by stopping and asking them all sorts of questions.

Once the person responds to their random question(s), they make their next move. They will say they can help out and in the shortest time possible.
Of course, their services are not for free. They will tell the person to pay up a desired amount of money as quickly as possible.
However, not all of these scheming individuals position themselves in premises. Others have chosen to advertise their services on other platforms such as social media mostly Facebook, brochures and posters.
Here are some of the places these middlemen and women are known to position themselves as they wait for clients:

Ministry of Internal Affairs
They do not stand in one place but rather roam about the main road scrutinising who is making their way to the offices and who is coming out.
“I fear my services to be jeopardised and that is why I do not just approach people out of the blue. What if I approach someone who is a policeman and then he arrests me? ” says Bass Muganzi, Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), who alleges to offer services to people who need passports in the shortest time possible.

I found him standing next to a white corona car that was packed adjacent to the gate of the ministry of internal affairs offices.
As much as some of these middlemen and women may be applauded by certain members of the public for speeding up the process of acquiring a passport, others have regrets for having dealt with them in the past. This has been for mostly reasons that they were defrauded.

One such person is a 28-year-old trader, Priscilla Adong.
Adong says she had heard of several stories from several people about the lengthy process of acquiring a passport from the Internal Affairs Ministry offices.
The mother of one says she did not want to pass through the same kind of hardship in order to attain one. So, she got someone, a man identified as Kafuuko, who claimed that he could get her the passport within a week. Kafuuko had also been positioning himself outside the Internal Affairs Ministry offices as a middleman who could help out anyone who wanted a passport in the shortest time.
“I gave him Shs450,000 since I wanted him to work on two passports. One was mine and the other for my 10-year-old daughter,” Adong says.

After a week elapsed, she tried calling Kafuuko up for an update but his phone number was off. She even visited the office where he had claimed to work only to find another occupant who had never seen or heard about him.
“When I shared this piece of information with my older sister, she said I was so stupid and naive for having accepted to hand over that large amount of money to a complete stranger,” says Adong.

Ms Pamela Ankunda, the Public Relations Officer at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, cautions members of the public against dealing with such people because of the tendency they have of extorting money from people.
“On numerous occasions, we receive cases of people narrating incidents where they have paid a large sum of money to someone to acquire a passport and that the person has suddenly vanished,” Ms Ankunda says.
She advices those who need passports to always follow the right procedure by not relying on middlemen who are always after making quick money by exploiting people.

Amamu house
Another likely place one is bound to bump into such individuals is at Amamu that has the offices of the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB). The agency among others registers business names, companies, business documents, intellectual property like trademarks, patents, copyrights, birth and death certificates.

Last Monday, during afternoon hours when I visited the premises, I came across a smartly dressed woman wearing a knee-length black dress with a cream blazer accompanied with a pair of high black shoes. She was standing beside the rails of one of the staircases within the building.
“Are you going to register for any document?” she asked.
When I told her no but was instead going to see someone within the building, she dished out a white business card which contained only her name and a phone number.

“In case you need assistance processing any document mostly birth and death certificates, just call me. I will ensure that you have it within a few days,” the lady said handing me her business card.
Provia Nangobi, the Senior Public relations Officer at URBS does not deny the existence of such middlemen and women whom she calls “corridor” people.
She says some of these “corridor people” after obtaining money from an individual, go somewhere else such as on Nkrumah Road where they counterfeit the document.

“A client will only get to realise later probably while assessing the document that it is actually fake and not genuine,” she says.
Nangobi says they have put strong measures in place to try and eradicate these “corridor” people.
“We have posters pinned all over the building informing our clients of the processes they need to follow if they want to obtain a particular document,” Nangobi said. She adds that there is also an inquiries desk right at the entrance on the ground floor where one of their staff sits to guide clients around the offices.
Her advice to clients is to always follow the right procedures in order to avoid being cheated by the imposters.

At schools
There are parents who will do everything within their power to ensure their children study at a prominent school. This is irrespective of the fact that their son or daughter did not get the required points to join the particular school.
Some of these people negotiate deals within the school itself. They could be school staff members themselves. Then, there are those who stand outside schools, especially during the time parents are hunting for vacancies for their child(ren).

“They normally claim that they know the big people in the school and they can easily connect you to them, that is, if you are willing to pay them a certain amount of money,” says Brenda Nakubugo whose 17-year-old daughter studies at a prominent boarding school in Wakiso district.

The money lenders
They advertise their services on posters that they paste at various points such as universities and hospitals.
One of the posters that I came across at Mulago hospital read, “In need of a quick loan, call these numbers quick and we shall come to your rescue.” The poster had two phone numbers whose figures had, however, been altered using a red marker.

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