Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: SKULDUGGERY (09/01/16)
- TITLE: The Dangerous Ally
By Robert Rutaagi
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Rona [pseudonym] was a talented professional accountant. She was one of the senior middle management executives by the time I was appointed CEO of NMS, the government pharmaceutical company in 2001.
At the time I joined the company, there were lots of conflicts amongst staff based on tribal, religious, political, gender, and professional biases. These differences affected even the decisions of the board and line ministry.
Two prominent moslems, one in management and the other in the board, were the protagonists of the conflicts which raged on for years.
As CEO, I was challenged to balance the forces between various stakeholders.
This article is not, necessarily, about those conflicts but about one skulduggery committed by Rona whose cryptic agenda found fertile ground in the same conflicts.
Rona was an amiable and beautiful Christian. She had excellent work ethos, was the only woman in middle and top management. When the post of Senior Accountant fell vacant and was later advertised, she emerged the best candidate. Later, she became Head of Finance and Administration through a very competitive process led by a prominent university don as a lead consultant.
But her accelerated raise was highly opposed by moslem inspired conflict-groups alluded to above.
As a believer and CEO, I depended on the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to manage the difficult situation. But the interplay of conflicting forces continued raging. Even the best decisions would be shot down, whistle blowers would smuggle confidential information to the regulators and the media.
As opponents increased, allies diminished and the corporate wars reached jihadic levels. We fervently prayed but all in vain.
Misinformation, disinformation, overt and covert sabotage became the order of the day! Even witchcraft was reported and I began to see signs in my office. I stopped taking office drinks and eats and abandoned the canteen meals, simply, to survive imminent harm.
ARV drugs worth over shs 1bn [USD 500k] expired without reporting and at a time when HIV/AIDs patients were dying daily in homes and hospitals! That created acrimonious debates in parliament, print and electronic media.
All my trust was put in the hands of Rona and a few managers whom I was sure had the interests of the company, nation and God’s people and my interests.
One evening, a few minutes to 5pm, Rona, personally, presented three cheques to me to sign. Two of us were the signatories. She had already signed. This was contrary to a well-known company policy to guard against forgeries, not presenting cheques on Fridays, before lunch or close of the day.
But Rona convinced me that the cheques were extremely urgent. That was why she had, personally, presented them instead of the usual cashier.
One of the cheques was for the Uganda Revenue Authority [URA] paying VAT failing which NMS would pay heavy penalties. The manager of URA [Diana] was waiting in Rona’s office! I signed.
Three days later, I received an urgent call from a Bank Manager [Richard] seeking my confirmation of payment to URAVATI Limited.
‘NMS does not have such a customer’, I told Richard. ‘Do not pay the cheque and arrest the presenter!’
It was that single call which saved my job and life from going to prison.
I called the Police, alerted URA who deployed their intelligence team to investigate the attempted fraud.
After signing the URA cheque, the hooligans went to work. Rona had left enough space on the cheque-leaf. On ‘URA’ she added ‘VAT’ [the urgent purpose] then, an ‘I’, perhaps, for phonetic reasons of sound and, finally, ‘Limited’ thereby creating ‘URAVATI Limited’ which they must have already registered as a new business name. Diana banked the cheque in Nile Bank and, if all had gone as planned, was ready to withdraw all the money as soon as the cheque matured.
Rona and Diana were arrested and incarcerated for months before being released on bail as police endlessly made further investigations.
The court process, too, drugged on for many years. The usual suspect was the pandemic corruption in police and judiciary. Lawyers of each party played their respective roles.
Eventually, the judgment was given. All charges against Rona and Diana were dropped. They celebrated victory.
Rona sued NMS, interalia, for wrongful dismissal. I became a witness. Rona’s counsel told the Judge that I hated her client for tribal, political and gender biases… She won the case and was awarded enormous damages. NMS has appealed against the ruling favoring a leopard in a sheep’s skin.
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