21 January 2013

Uganda: How to Avoid Being Cheated in Building


There is a common saying that East or West, home is always best. Our loved ones and friends may leave us and go to different parts of the world for several reasons, including searching for jobs, education opportunities and many more leaving us behind.

Much as they go, they never forget their roots. They once in a while make phone calls or come home for holidays to be with families and friends. But when they come back, where do they go or stay for the period they are here? Is it in their parents' homes, siblings, lodges or hotels? Some of the people building back home while abroad share their thoughts.

Mary Karungi, a Ugandan living in South Africa is building a house in Entebbe and she shares her thoughts why she is constructing a house back home. "Owning your own house is a treasure and more comfortable. It is good to get back home and have a place to call home. It would not be right for me to come back home for holidays and live with my sisters who are married and yet I am also a married woman,"says Karungi. She advises people living abroad to try their level best to build back home so that when they come home, they do not have to keep spending money on hotels or renting.

Rose Mushemeza, a Ugandan living in London says she built her house in Kabale, after realising that she was spending a lot of money sleeping in hotels every time she and her daughter came home. She says they could not sleep in her parents' house because she is a grown up and finds that immature to share a house with them.

Martin Kabogoza, a Ugandan living in Zimbabwe says he built a house in Luzira after an increase in the number of family members; a wife and four children. "As a married man, there is no way I would come back home and live in my parents' home with my children and wife," said Kabogoza. "Those abroad who come home to spend holidays, should build their own houses so that they do not spend money in hotels, which are expensive, yet they would be saving that money to build their own houses," says Karungi.

Building a house back home, while abroad may not be as easy as there are many challenges involved, including supervision of workers, source of money, buying materials in your absence. A lot of money is injected into the whole building process and therefore one must ensure that if they are not going to be around to monitor the process, it is crucial they delegate people they trust to oversee what the builders are doing.

Source of money

Karungi says together with the husband, they brought their savings and also got a loan to start the building. "My husband and I used some of our savings, but a loan was also necessary considering that it is not easy saving enough for building. Besides, there are always other necessities to spend on like school fees, food and clothing," Karungi says.

Land issues

Before building, there are key factors to consider and Yusuf Nsibambi, the Kampala district land boss advises people abroad planning to build back home to consider them.

"Since these people have less time to supervise the construction process, it is important that they at least get involved in the beginning, which are the crucial moments before building starts," says Nsibambi.

Nsibambi says thorough research should be done on the true ownership of the land before buying it, so as to avoid inconveniences in future resulting from buying fake land with fake land titles "Today, there are many people who are involved in selling fake land with fake land titles. If someone has not done thorough research on proper land ownership with the help of their lawyers, they are likely to lose both land and large sums of money," said Nsibambi.

Also, find out where the land is located. Is it in a congested neighbourhood, slumlike area where water and sewage ooze all the time, is it near an industrial area, where water and air contamination are the order of the day? Find out all these so that you do not regret in the future after putting up your dream house and you cannot enjoy its comfort. He also says a lawyer must be involved so as to transfer the legal documents of the land titles from the original owner to the buyer and ensure that an agreement is done on how much the land was bought and who is the rightful owner. The seller and buyer must sign those documents before the lawyer as their witness.

In addition, an attorney and an architect should be involved to make sure that proper drawings on the land are made to ensure the house is constructed as planned by the house owners. Consulting the physical planning officials under the ministry of lands in the district area, where the house is to be built is also important and this is to ensure that the house is not built in the wetlands. Such a house may be demolished in future because it is illegal to build in the wetlands.

Other amenities of the area should be considered too and the most important ones are access to water, electricity, security, space, accessibility to roads, shopping areas and flood free.

How is supervision done?

Most people building while abroad chose to delegate their close relatives to oversee the construction, but is that the only alternative? Paul Byaruhanga, Karungi's husband, says when it comes to supervision issues, he wishes it were possible to supervise the whole building process by himself, but since he is also in South Africa, he chose some of his close relatives to supervise the work.

"In my absence, I put my brother in charge to oversee the construction. But still once in while, I come back home to see how far they have gone and monitor whether everything goes as planned and how my money is being used," says Byaruhanga.

However, Namutebi's experience on delegating a relative is the opposite of what Byaruhanga thinks. While living in London, Anita Namutebi decided to build a house back home so that if ever she decided to come back home, she would have a house to call her own.

She came and made plans of how she wants her house to look like, paid off the money for the construction to begin and before going back to London, she put her sister in charge of supervision. Namutebi never returned to see how far they had gone but kept on sending more money to complete the house.

Five years later, she decided to come back home after all she had her own house to live in. Her happiness was shortlived when she returned and was shown a very small house as her house, yet she had spent large sums of money on it.

Instead, her own sister had used Namutebi's money together with her husband to build a bigger and better house. Namutebi says that is her worst nightmare, but advises that the best thing to do is to always get time, come back home and check the progress of the construction much as you may have relatives in charge, otherwise even a relative can betray you, says Namutebi.

The biggest challenge or fear Byaruhanga and the wife have is that the builders are always asking for money, but they do not know whether they purchase the right materials and in the right quantities.

"Supervision becomes hard and you cannot change anything in case anything goes wrong because you are not there. It is also not good to spend on things you are not sure are being done the way you want them," says Karungi.

How about accountability?

Records of whatever is purchased should be put down so that when the owner returns, the supervisor is able to explain how they spent the money. Otherwise if there are no records, the owner stands a big risk of being cheated.

Moses Twinomujuni, a technician who deals in general hardware, also a supervisor at Byaruhanga's house, keeps receipts of all transactions of the building materials, labour and when the boss returns, he explains how he spent the money. "It is professional to have a book where records of how money was spent, what you are buying, at what cost so that there is trust between you and the boss," says Twinomujuni.

Mutebile advises that before you trust someone with the responsibility of overseeing other workers, you must know them well. Byaruhanga recommends Ugandans living abroad to build back home, saying it is hard but worth it. "It can be challenging, but workable, especially if you can spare a few days to go and see what is being done."

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