A leading labour export firm, Middle East Consultants, has been accused of running operations in which the company officials extort money from desperate Ugandans with promises of high paying jobs in the Middle East that never materialise, Sunday Monitor can reveal.
For the last three months, Sunday Monitor has investigated the numerous allegations against the Muyenga based company, with the company’s victims nursing broken hearts over unfulfilled promises and debts.
In many cases, the managers of the company have accepted their liability due to the evidence and pressure exerted by their victims and proceeded to refund the money or have made commitment to pay it back.
In other cases, some of the people conned either give up or settle for a percentage of their money after months of trying.
What is worrying, however, is that more desperate young people are flocking the company in the hope of securing a job. We have since established that some of the money collected from the fresh recruits is used to compensate the “stubborn ones” who demand their money.
Last week, a group of about 20 people who had been promised jobs in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and other cities protested at the company premises. One of their leaders told Sunday Monitor that they were each refunded at least $1,200 (about Shs4.4m) in partial payments after months of false promises from the company.
The case of Adolf Kyaligonza On January 27, 2018, Mr Kyaligonza registered with the Middle East Consultants company for a possible job abroad.
He was consequently summoned for interviews for a job in Qatar, which the company said it had secured.
On the appointed date, he was among the more than 80 people who sat for an interview. They were warned beforehand that they needed to have money ready before doing the interviews. They had a window of only 24h hours.
Mr Kyaligonza secured a loan from a local bank and waited. On the appointed day, after passing the interview, he proceeded to Equity Bank and paid $1500 (about Shs5.5m) on the company’s A/C 100220069 5532.
He was upbeat.
Middle East Consultants officials reportedly told him his visa would be ready in five days.
On the same day, On September 4, 2018, the company asked Kyaligonza to pay more money through one of its workers, a one Sarah Ninsiima, to process his travel.
He paid to Ninsiima Shs500,000 for verification of his Advanced Certificate of Education, Shs300,000 for Interpol (Certificate of Good Conduct), Shs100,000 for the “Yellow Book” [Yellow Fever card].
Between October and December, 2018, Mr Kyalionza regularly travelled from Fort Portal in Kabarole District to Muyenga in Kampala to check on the progress of his travel.
Each time, he was promised, including undertaking fresh interviews for other jobs in Abu Dhabi.
By December 15, Kyaligonza had had enough of the unfulfilled promises and started demanding a refund of his money. The general manager, Benon Kunywana, sent Kyaligonza to the company’s accounts office where he was given refund forms. He was informed that he could only get a refund after 35 to 45 days.
Meanwhile, Kyaligonza says he had to go into hiding because the bank where he had borrowed money was after him.
We presented Kyaligonza’s case to Middle East Consultants managing director Gordon Mugyenyi on January 25.
He said he was out of the country, but referred us to Mr Kunywana to deal with the issue.
We contacted Mr Kunywana immediately and presented him with Mr Kyaligonza’s case as an example.
“Kindly, send him to my office tomorrow. I will help him. I am the general manager,” he said.
We informed him that we were in the process of publishing the story and that we needed his response to the allegations.
He asked us not to publish the story, saying Mr Kyaligonza’s money would be refunded. We decided to hold the story until Mr Kyaligonza, who was in hiding from his debtors, was paid his money.
After pressure mounted, Mr Kyaligonza’s was eventually refunded his $1500 and the Shs900,000 that he had paid to the company.
But all the money he spent in pursuing his refund was not refunded and he has had to contend with interest on the loan he took.
WHAT GOVT SAYS…
Mr Martin Wandera is the Director of labour, employment and occupational safety and health at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, explains:
“The law permits workers to pay some money to facilitate their travel, but this money should not be exorbitant. If you receive money from someone and you don’t deploy them, that makes the story worse.
So if there is anybody who has given money to a company and the company has not deployed that person, they should come to the ministry.
If the company does not pay then immediately, we suspend document processing, which means they cannot do business. If they do not comply, the next step would be to suspend their licence but even where a company fails to pay the money, we have recourse to a bank guarantee of Shs50m which they give to us at licensing. In the instant
case, if there is anyone who is owed money by a company, they should come to us. However, whoever comes, should come with evidence. The fees for government documents is known, it is standard, so collecting money from candidates which is over and above the statutory fees is unlawful and it is sanctionable.
So, again if a company collected more money from you than it is required for Interpol, produce evidence and we will sanction that company and we will make sure the company pays.”