Proactive approach to tackling fraud overdue

The head of the State House Investors Protection Unit, Col Edith Nakalema, during a meeting with communication officers of different MDAs in Kampala on January 31, 2024. Photo/ Abubaker Lubowa

What you need to know:

  • The issue: Fraud
  • Our view: If fraud is taken more seriously and the resourcing around tackling the crime is scaled up, we have every confidence in the actualisation of positive outcomes.

In recent years, fraud attacks against foreign investors in Uganda have grown in both their frequency and ferocity. The latest investors that have found themselves inherently vulnerable to attack are proprietors of a Qatar-based firm.

A web of deceit meticulously spun by Ugandan fraudsters—with the help of big shots in the country—has left the Doha-based Ascend Group $306,950 (about Shs1.2 billion) poorer.

Credit should be given to the government of Uganda for realising that this is an outrage that should be condemned.

Last year, President Museveni was sufficiently concerned about the aforesaid outrage that he appointed Col Edith Nakalema to head the State House Investors Protectorate Unit.

The entity is the first of its kind. It might be early days yet, but the initial prognosis comes to the conclusion that the task of reining in the mushrooming fraudsters is proving harder than expected.

It is abundantly clear that the breadth of issues the Nakalema-led Unit has to address is daunting. Fraud attacks targeting foreign investors are spreading so rapidly and damagingly.

President Museveni has himself used previous past speeches to make clear the need to defuse what is by all measures a painfully uncomfortable situation for a country whose foreign reserves keep shrinking.

What is clear is that the repair job will require a depth of imagination, ambition, and sheer determination which for now appears to elude the State House Investors Protectorate Unit.

If it needs to be spelt out, the government’s existing fraud strategy does not quite pack a punch. For it to go far enough, the funding geared at stopping this type of fraud has to be scaled up. Significantly. 

Besides a sustained funding programme, the collaboration between the government, law enforcement, and non-state actors has to be enhanced. This cannot be stressed enough especially since fraud offences are often enabled through third parties such as telecommunications, email and social media platforms.

Coordination between state and non-state actors—such as the private sector—is therefore of the essence.

Needless to say, there should be a sea change in the philosophy and practice of combating fraud. The new approach should be more proactive in prevention, more combative in probing, prosecution, and conviction.

If fraud is taken more seriously and the resourcing around tackling the crime is scaled up, we have every confidence in the actualisation of positive outcomes.

Fraud is a crime that not only causes financial losses but also triggers emotional and psychological distress. The least the government can do is to ensure that the justice system not only considers it but also treats tackling fraud as a priority area.