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Safeguarding the public from unscrupulous swindlers

Safeguarding the public from unscrupulous swindlers

The rank of swindlers intent on robbing the public under the guise of legally sanctioned business operations is swelling alarmingly. These cheats primarily use smooth-talking sales operatives as well as alluring ads in which they offer to avail housing, vehicles, construction machineries and business or educational opportunities to rob thousands of unsuspecting citizens of their hard-earned savings running to billions. The government should look into why incidenctss where unscrupulous characters con the public are proliferating. How can the public engage in commercial dealings with confidence if the concerned government agency turns a blind eye to untoward practices which undermine the sacrosanct trust that should inherently exist between contracting parties? Such a dereliction of duty is bound to harm the public interest.

The delivery of various goods and services should not be governed by contracts alone if consumers are to be safeguarded against fraudulent acts; other appropriate legal remedies need also be available. Any trader who asks for partial or total payment in advance prior to delivery must not be allowed to collect such payment before he furnishes adequate assurance guaranteeing that he will discharge his obligations in accordance with the terms of the contract. He also has to have a paid-up capital that enables him to meet his contractual commitments. The absence of legal protections like these has played a significant role in the financial ruin and psychological trauma that deceived consumers have been subjected to.

It is the lack of strong regulatory frameworks and agencies that, with the notable exception of financial institutions, has left impotent many share companies founded through public subscription. Banks and insurance companies operating in Ethiopia would have gone bust let alone thrive as they do now had the National Bank of Ethiopia not exercised strict control over them. This is borne out by the profit they consistently turn in year in year out and the scandals it dealt with decisively before they got out of hand. A raft of companies engaged in real estate, agro-industry, transport, merchandise sales and other sectors have either folded or are in an anemic state due, among others things, to the non-existence of close monitoring that allowed fraudsters to utilize the companies as vehicles to execute their nefarious plans.

The increasing brazenness of the scams perpetrated in recent years by mafia-type groups has made it practically impossible to continue with the traditional trust-based business transaction that had existed for generations. Granted business dealings by nature require acumen and farsight, the deceptions that are being witnessed these days are becoming more sophisticated by the day. It is principally up to the government to keep abreast of the loopholes which cheats exploit and close them off. One cannot talk about the rule of law when citizens can no more rely on the government to protect them from con artists and bring the criminals to justice.

All this compels one to raise some critical questions. How come no government agency or law enforcement organs take proactive measures to deter confidence tricksters from hoodwinking citizens all over the country? Doesn’t this strongly imply that they enjoy the backing of powerful patrons? Who was responsible to ensure that they provided proof demonstrating that they have the requisite business license, capital base, work experience, commendable track record, insurance coverage, etc., before they embark on collecting money? Any investigation into the matter should address these and similar issues.

It’s through a strict enforcement of the law that swindlers who rob citizens of their hard-earned savings can be brought to heel. This calls for the introduction of a new set of rules, namely making it mandatory for any business enterprise to take out adequate insurance prior to mobilizing funds from the public, to bolster existing legislations. The regulatory agencies which, by law, shoulder this duty are the Ministry of Trade/ regional trade bureaus and the entities they delegate. The victims of previous as well as recent scams have asked the government to help them get recompense for their losses. Though it cannot compensate them directly from its coffers, it has to explore various options that alleviate the suffering they underwent. It is also incumbent upon it to see to it that they get justice by punishing the culprits to the fullest extent of the law.