Maybe corruption is not all what is it is cracked up to be.
The peace of mind that comes when your ATM card is a s good as cash. The ability to buy at leisure whatever your heart desires. The seduction of the boost in society’s eyes that you may enjoy because of your capacity to solve the problems of friend and family.
That is what we see on the surface. But what is really going on.
The corrupt official knows – at least at the beginning of his nefarious enterprise, that this cannot last forever. So while he slides through town in the newest four wheel drive, wines and dines in the Sheraton – the Sheraton was the place to be he remembers with the girl(s) of countless high school wet dreams – not his wife, on his arm his mind is in overdrive.
Of course he has had about investing, so he is going to invest. An investment decision with ill-gotten wealth is really quite simple. Or so we think.
To invest is to commit money with a reasonable degree of certainty that the money will earn a return. Of course whether a return materializes or not will often be a function of the “investors” skill at appraising projects’ viability.
Since the corruption money is “free” any money earned from the enterprise will show an infinite rate of return. Or so we think.
King Solomon said it best “A fool and his money are soon parted”.
So what does the corrupt official do he goes and buys land, after all they all say you cannot go wrong with land. Since that is his mentality and since he did not “work” hard for the money, he is not looking for bargains in the land market, whatever price is named he just reaches under the mattress and pays millions, hundreds of millions even billions of shillings in cash. Partly explaining why property in Kampala is more expensive than in Nairobi or Cape Town.
Once the land has been purchased the corrupt official soon tires of taking friends and family out to see bare land and is soon itching to start building.
So he dips his now increasingly pudgy fingers into the till again and starts building. Invariably he wants a huge expansive home. So he puts it up in record time, spares no expense in fitting it – shopping trips to China may enter into the picture at this time.
But the corrupt official does not stop there. Since he has cemented his high standing in society with his new palace it’s time to move on again. Meanwhile he used to pay rent of sh400,000 but now his utility bills – water, power, DSTV, security exceed that figure easily.
So he goes off in search of more land. This time he wants to put up an income generating investment, a few rentals maybe.
Again it doesn’t matter the cost he puts up his rentals and starts receiving tenants. The cost of regular maintenance work on the rentals does not come from the income but from the office imprest.
He might branch out and start a farm. Clearly the gentleman farmer did not die with “Pride and Prejudice”. And again the office imprest is exercised.
Somehow these types get promoted and the scale of their “eating” rises in step with their advancement.
He might now think of building a hotel. Somehow these corrupt types have no time for market research and business plans, after all their money is free.
It’s easy to tell the hotels built by corrupt money. They are often bigger than necessary, with little or no thought placed on parking space or landscaping, the finishings are gauche with the colour schemes all over the place and the service? You would get better at your local kafunda.
Their consolation is that at least they have a building. A fool and his money …
It’s usually this last vanity project that put the corrupt official on his way out. With occupancy rates in single digits the corrupt official finds he needs to raid “imprest” to subsidise the hotel.
As often happens these corrupt official will get away with a slap on the wrist. Will leave the civil service grumbling how government is very ungrateful and that he is off to look after his “businesses”.
For the rest of us looking from the sidelines we will think life is not fair and that the corrupt official is finally off to enjoy his ill-gotten wealth quietly. And that is where the story stops for us.
For the corrupt official the realization that his “empire” has been built on smoke and mirrors does not hit home immediately. He continues to live the life he is accustomed to wining and dining, roaring up country in his monster 4WD and generally continuing where he left off.
Then suddenly the costs begin to rear their ugly heads. He needs to pay hundreds of thousands of shillings to maintain his household, a few other millions to keep his rentals in presentable orders and many more millions to keep his hotel, farm etc in working order.
His “businesses” cannot pay for themselves and he has no access to the imprest and then the slide into ignominy begins in ernest and before not long the corrupt official is backing hustling with us mere mortals.
PS. Any resemblance is to actual individuals may not be accidental. They should take solace in the fact that their example may be useful in deterring others from straying down the crooked path.