Monday, February 15, 2016

THE CASE FOR ILLICIT ENRICHMENT

This week the Inspectorate of Government (IGG) is pushing for former prime minister’s office principal accountant Geoffrey Kazinda to be charged with illicit enrichment.

Essentially they will be seeking to prove that Kazinda was living way beyond his means, way beyond the capacity of his known incomes could sustain.

In relation to this they will show that he possesses property valued at about sh3b and cars worth sh770m property he could not possibly afford on his sh2m a month official salary.

The IGG has rarely invoked this section of the Anti-corruption act in the past in trying to prosecute suspected thieves, partly due to the difficulty in proving it.

"To prove a person as illicitly enriched him or herself according to the Anti-Corruption act it has to be proved that he must control or possess property that it is doubtful they would have acquired with through their known income or endowments...

Suspects have come up with numerous dodges of how to shelter their ill-gotten wealth, registering it in relatives’ names or in corporate entities which would be difficult to trace back to themselves.

However if investigators went beyond possessions to audit the suspects’ lifestyles they may have better luck. And that seems to be what they are doing with Kazinda.

It seems a no brainer.

"If a man’s known income is one million shillings and he wines and dines at our finer hotels and when the spirit moves him he might hole up in their presidential suite for a week or two or three and when he is not using his designated vehicle he tools around Kampala in a Rolls Royce Phantom, you have to wonder...

It is a schizophrenic society we live in where we know, beyond intuition, that so and so is living well above his pay grade but we not only suspend disbelief but celebrate these types, giving them pride of place in our churches and wilfully put our children under their care.

Our public officials have got away with so much that they no longer feel the need to hide their illicit wealth living in a life of glitz and glamour the rest of us mere mortals are content to watch on TV, paying cash for their children to study abroad and changing their passports annually for lack of space in them for new visas.

In the US the integrity of the financial system is so critical to the smooth running of the country and the credibility of the dollar as a reserve currency, that you can get away with murder in the US but find it much harder to get away with financial impropriety. As one of our politicians found out the hard way at the end of the last century.

Tax evasion, currency counterfeiting, money laundering and general fraud are nipped in the bud not out of any moral superiority of the society but because they cannot allow the rot to entrench itself in the system to the point that it is a matter of national security.

In fact the secret service, which protects the US president and his deputy is also tasked with protecting the financial system of the US.

"You cannot overemphasise that corruption goes beyond depriving services to the public but is also a disincentive for hard and diligent work, distorts markets and readjusts society’s moral compass towards crime...


That the IGG is now looking to go the way of lifestyle audits is a welcome move, long overdue and could put a meaningful dent in the endemic that is concentrating public resources in a handful of individuals’ bank accounts. 

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