Strengthening Asset recovery in Uganda by imposing a Legal requirement to register all property related transactions in Uganda
Once upon a time, the Government proposed that all property related transactions in Uganda be effected through a bank account. Obviously this requirement was meant to reduce cash transactions and trim the cash economy. As we argued earlier, corruption is not going anywhere unless we eradicate the cash economy.
The proposal was killed by those that benefit from the current state of affairs. In the Uganda of today, purchase of unregistered assets is the mode of choice of laundering illicitly acquired wealth. I can embezzle my billions today and buy my large estate of land or build myself a big rental complex without leaving a paper trail of how I used to embezzled funds, the very next day. Even if I am investigated and convicted, goodluck in tracing my assets. Obviously, I converted the embezzled funds in cash and acquired property using the cash and the property is not registered or known to government agencies. In such circumstances, how will the investigators trace my assets and carry out asset recovery.
However, if I could not legally purchase any property or build any property without using a bank or similar institution to transact, it would be exceedingly hard for me to launder the proceeds of my embezzlement. To achieve this position, our proposals are as follows:
- Every person desiring to buy property including land, stocks, machinery and cars must transact through a bank account registered in his or her name. This requirement will ensure that all property is acquired through a traceable method rather than cash. If you embezzle funds and purchase property we shall be able to Trace the proceeds of your embezzlement.
- Every transaction involving acquisition or building of property must be registered with the Inspectorate of Government and any property not declared within ninety days of acquisition or building shall be presumed to be illicitly acquired and be forfeited to the State. This provision would ensure that all property owners declare transactions with their property and make it easier for the state to trace illicitly acquired property.
- Every person who sales or acquires or develops property without using a bank account to transact and without registering the acquisition or development to the Inspectorate of Government commits a criminal offense and shall be liable on conviction to a fine equaling the value of the property or the development and imprisonment of not less than twenty years except that the Inspectorate may decide to enforce only the fine by deferring criminal prosecution by instead using the administrative procedures tribunal. This provision will deter failures to register transactions and ensure compliance with the duty to register transactions
Cost Effective means of registering transactions
Distractors will argue that it is expensive to maintain a database of the transactions registered by the persons impacted by the registration requirements above. Whereas it is true that certain infrastructure and expenditure is required it is not necessarily costly. There are open source database software including one developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization that can be utilized to register the transactions. Furthermore, there are many open source database softwares that can be utilized to register and analyse the data. For example, this data can be collected using a combination of a 100 dollar website, Microsoft Access software and Microsoft Forms. Obviously a more complex database would require considerable expenditure but it is possible to have the required database cheaply as resources are being sourced. In any case, the money that would be saved or recovered as a result of the requirement would significantly exceed the required investment.
The problem is that there is no political will either in the inspectorate of government or in the executive to push for such a requirement. The requirement needs legislative action though some elements of it could be accomplished using the current legal mandated of the Inspectorate of government.
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