Real struggle separating scams from the errors

Sunday May 09 2021
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Angella Nampewo

By Angella Nampewo

I get loads of email; personal and professional from the bazillion agencies and causes to which I subscribe. Recently, while sorting and answering emails, I landed on a message that seemed to have escaped my notice. According to the timeline, it had been sent six days prior. It was an invoice. For $650. From a group or person I had never heard of. They said the amount was due and also very graciously offered me the opportunity of unsubscribing via a number that looked like it was US listed. 

Belatedly, I realised I should not have opened the email to start with. It could have come with the mother of all viruses to shut my systems down. Now that I was in, the mystery deepened. Who were these so-called creditors and how had they wound up in my email? Had my account been hacked? The email had arrived days earlier. 

What if deductions were already happening in the bank to honour this fake bill? Did they have my card details? I wasted no time. I contacted the bank and found, to my great relief, that no additional charges had been made. Perhaps these goons had been hoping that I would contact them and open myself up to the scam.

Well, scammers will always try their luck. They find a loophole and they are in. Last week, there was a lot of disturbing news emerging out of the country’s financial accounts. While scrutinising the country’s Budget for 2021/2022, a lot of figures did not add up. Numbers showed up where we thought they had no business being. 

For instance, why did we have Shs10b allocated to the ministry of finance for installing traffic lights and painting zebra crossings? In at least one official statement, the ministry of Finance said they had every right to be planting trees and painting zebra crossings. 

According to the Finance spokesperson, Mr Jim Mugunga, in a report published in Daily Monitor, there are no ‘mafia’ in the Finance ministry. In fact, he explained, in the April 30 newspaper article that during the Budget preparation and presentation season, there is a tradition for the ministry to engage in some outreach activities in order to draw the attention to the process and engage the public.  Nothing to worry about there. However, there were a lot of other figures though that showed up multiple times and were hard to explain. There was also the small matter of Shs481b meant for recapitalisation of Bank of Uganda. This had already been settled in 2020 but showed up as a fresh request. 

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It could very well be a problem of mathematics and errors and as one minister put it, since there were “serious questions” on the Budget, then the team would give it another good look. The assumption is that our ministry of Finance employs the best and if they do not, then perhaps they should be. 

Put some of that money allocated to installing lights and painting zebra crossings to improve the wages of the computing staff. Surely, we will still be able to take care of the important stuff with the balance. How costly can it be to get some crossings painted? We cannot have people scamming us from the ministry of Finance and all we can do is throw up our hands and say too bad, cleaning the system “is a real struggle because you are not going to clean society in a day…” Show us the culprits you have caught so far and what has happened to them.

Ms Nampewo is a writer, editor and communications consultant     

angella.nampewo@gmail.com

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