Glossing over theft: Let’s get tougher on thieves

They tell a story of a man who was caught about to steal something from a shop shelf, and when he was asked what he was doing by one of the employees, he said he was just displacing it. When the owner of the shop asked whether he intended to steal the item, the shop attendant replied, “Maybe just displacing it, that’s all.”

They tell a story of a man who was caught about to steal something from a shop shelf, and when he was asked what he was doing by one of the employees, he said he was just displacing it. When the owner of the shop asked whether he intended to steal the item, the shop attendant replied, “Maybe just displacing it, that’s all.”

You bet, the shop owner was furious. The shop owner was furious because he had trusted someone to protect his merchandise from theft, but now was glossing over the intended theft.

Well, like the shop keeper, I am furious; I am very angry and disappointed to say the least. I am perhaps even horrified. I am all of these things because, my country, among the poorest in the world is being abused by some who have been entrusted to shepherd it out of the miseries of poverty, but are turning against it and draining it of its lifeline instead. Tell me if there is anything more treasonable than tampering with a landlocked country’s strategic oil reserves.

It’s gratifying to know that I am not the only one who is furious; I read in The New Times that members of parliament are also furious. I can imagine who or how many other people must be raging with fury over the same issue. But I am also furious at others too; I am furious at those who abated this “gross irregularities” which by the way, seems the acceptable word for an “honoured thief” that is if there is anything like honour among thieves.

There must be a good explanation why the Auditor’s Report is eight months old. I fail to find any explanation why the auditor couldn’t, did not, find it logical to prepare an interim report.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, which would have prevented the office of the auditor general from blowing the whistle when it realised that some people responsible for the management of the state resources were acting irregularly. Now the country has to deal with a monumental loss of face and money to boot.

Apparently, the irregularities do not stop there. It seems there are a couple of billions in irregular tenders and other underhand dealings in government agencies too. But the million dollar question - or is it billion franc question; why did it wait for all the eight months?

I don’t suppose, that people capable of orchestrating such a monumental feat of fraud would be so foolish as to leave the evidence lying around for eight months. I believe eight months is enough for them to cover their tracks so well that anybody investigating the crime will have a feeling he or she is reading a story about benevolent saints out to save the world.

Worse still, what were the other government agencies doing? It takes many large tankers to uplift the amount of white or black fuel from any public depot; tenders too, are published in the news papers and suppliers have to have a registered business and must declare their taxes.

In fact with all the time that I worked in the petroleum industry, I never saw a gantry dispensing after dark. In fact gantry technicians leave the depot before everyone else does. So do we need to be told “catch me if you can, I have my loot bagged?” No, I hope not.

I think a lot of other people were either involved or they plainly did not do their job.
One cannot help but wonder, what does a finance officer do in a government office if they cannot keep the books, manage and prevent misuse of resources? What about the legal officer, aren’t they supposed to advise on the legality of action taken by public officers in the commission of their duty?  Shouldn’t such a deal be vetted and authorised by the tax authorities? There seem to be more questions than answers, and unfortunately, deals like these are not in the public realm, so questions must be asked.

Emmanuel Murangira is a fellow of Quantitative Economics of Development at the Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at The Hague
Contact: 
emurangira@gmail.com

 

 

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