Bank of Uganda: Why shoddy work for Uganda is normal

Tuesday June 25 2019

Nicholas Sengoba

Nicholas Sengoba 

By Nicholas Sengoba

It went like this. Money was printed for Uganda. It was to be delivered on a plane chartered exclusively by the central bank of Uganda (BoU) to transport only the currency of the same entity as per standard procedure.

Then it was discovered along the way that the plane had other cargo besides that of BoU that had exclusively hired the plane.

You can bet your shirt that the one who entered into a contract with BoU is no ordinary boda boda rider who when hired to deliver a package of bananas, may pick up an old shoe along the way and leave it with a cobbler on the same route, to be picked up on the return journey - just to make an extra money.

The transporter must have known the gravity of not following the dictates of the contract to the letter, for issues to do with national currency are ‘not a joking subject.’ They have grave implications on the economy, security and politics of a country and even a region. It may cause hyperinflation in case more than what was ordered gets mixed up with other cargo on the same plane. Money may get mixed up, landing in the hands of organised criminals, etc.

They, therefore, should never have blinked for a second to ensure that everything goes according to the stringent requirements. It is possible that they had only good intentions to grant such a wealthy client a good service. But being human, they may have slept and as they did so, someone else took advantage of the situation. Whatever the case, the plane carried extra cargo and that was wrong without any excuse. Because of that, they shall be held responsible and made to pay a price.

Some may say these things happen. In fact, Liberia allegedly lost more than $100 million in printed bank notes in 2018, somewhere between the airport and the central bank.

But Uganda is not Liberia. Uganda, for it has been relatively peaceful and organised for the last 30 years unlike Liberia, which emerged from civil strife slightly more than a decade ago. So why should such a clumsy and potentially criminal occurrence happen to Uganda, we may ask?

Over the years, we have given the world the general impression that we just do not value things Ugandan or care much about national treasures or values as long as we stay alive and are reasonably happy. Common decency and patriotic duty are not things highly regarded or emphasised.

That is how the Ugandan passport becomes the document of choice the world-over for people who want to gain through crooked dealings.
The little book is readily available on the market. In fact, it is claimed that many of the ‘Ugandans’ caught drug trafficking in lucrative markets like China and sentenced to death, are actually not Ugandans. Some are criminals from West African countries, who have wormed their way into the system and acquired passports. This eventually devalues the passport and associates it with crime leaving many law abiding citizens the colossal task of proving their innocence at a high cost, when attempting to acquire visas.

Ours is the land where an individual who comes from a country where it is treasonable to cut a single tree, will arrive masquerading as an ‘investor’ and ask to be allocated an ancient forest to grow sugarcane. Apparently, these resources are up for the highest bidder who in cahoots with the local mafia, will get any national treasure on the cheap and thereafter do as they please.

We are fast becoming the cradle for maids exported to the Middle East where employers treat them like dirt, occasionally killing some and nothing happens but to encourage the export of many more. Compare this to a citizen of the Jewish state of Israel. The country will most probably strike back and kill an even bigger number just to make the point that spilling Jewish blood is risky.
It is this sort of protection of person and property that describes the level of seriousness or lack of it for a country.

Similarly, it is that information that gives a cue to those dealing with such a country on how to conduct themselves as they approach it. Anyone dealing with a country like Uganda will assume that a little bending of the rules even for serious things, will not hurt, after all, you are dealing with a country where serious stuff like HIV serostatus results of choice are readily available to those with the right money.

They will have the attitude that assumes that anything can pass because they are people who can be bought for a song to deliberately turn a blind eye.

So a cargo transporter like the one in the BoU case will not take extra measures to ensure due diligence for the sake of getting the standard operating practices right to the dot and the letter.

It is the seriousness of a country that determines how people treat its business and its people.

The impression a country gives is what people take and give back in return. Shoddy work for Uganda and Ugandan institutions is not by accident.

Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political
and social issues.