Why former BoU supervision director defied parliamentary probe
Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | A sitting of the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) which is probing Bank of Uganda’s dissolution of seven commercial over 23 years turned dramatic on Nov.20 when central bank officials contradicted each other and traded accusations.
They were eventually kicked out of the hearing amidst allegations that they were deliberately withholding vital information on the movement of assets, including cash, of some of the sold banks.
The former Director for Supervision at BoU, Justine Bagyenda had specifically been summoned to shed light on some missing files said to contain critical information.
This was after a ploy by BoU officials to hide under shifts in banking regulations to claim they were not required to keep an inventory of assets and liabilities of closed banks.
The seven banks whose closure by BoU is under scrutiny include;Teffe, Greenland Bank; formerly owned by the late SulaimanKigundu, National Bank of Commerce (NBC), formerly owned by tycoon Amos Nzeyi and former Prime Minister, AmamaMbabazi, among others, International Bank, formerly owned by the Thomas Katto family, Cooperative Bank, Global Trust Bank, and Crane Bank which was owned by SudhirRuparelia.
Initially, Benedict Ssekabira, the Director Financial Markets Development at BoU insisted there are no reports. He explained that ICB was closed in September 1998 and that KPMG, who was appointed as a liquidator agent by BoU, submitted a report only once throughout that time. That final report is dated September 30, 2001.
Similarly, he added, under Co-operative Bank, KPMG also reported only once in August 2001 and that was their exit report. In Greenland Bank, Ssekabira explained, Delloite Touché were engaged from day one.
“The issues in Greenland were heavier and more challenging. As for the terms of their engagement, they were required to issue frequent reports. That is why you see frequent reports from the Central Bank,” Ssekabira told the committee, “In KPMG where frequent reporting was not required, they sat in there and only did reports when it was required. These are the differences that existed.”
Following the takeover by BoU, which happened in 2001, BoU did not want to report to itself because at that time, BoU was in charge of the liquidation and being in charge, it would not issue a report to itself.”
He said that what BoU did was appoint auditors in 2002 to audit the situations in 2002 and that indeed there is a statement of affairs for each bank that was submitted to this Committee.
At this point, Katuntu pressed Ssekabira.
“Which department was handling this particular exercise,” Katuntu asked.
Ssekabira responded that it was the Bank supervision department.
“Which organ of the bank was it reporting to?” Katuntu fired again.
When Ssekabira said it reports to the Governor, Katuntu asked him where the reports they had submitted to the governor saying they were doing this and this was the status, were.
“It is true that the governor may not have received the reports because Ssekabira does not report to the governor,” Ssekabira said.
He said he was appointed as an agent of the liquidator and was reporting to somebody far below the governor. “Those reports exist,” Ssekabira said.
Katuntu: “You said there were no reports. Now you are saying there are reports, which is a contradiction. That is why members are wondering what you are talking about. We want to know the asset movement schedule from Shs117 billion to Shs19 billion. Do we have documentation to show movement of these assets?”
At that point Mutebile also jumped in. “MrSsekabira said he had no reports to me because he was too far from me,” the Governor wondered, “He did not say which person that was. Who is this person whom he is not naming?”
“It was Mr Apollo Obbo, Ms Margaret Matovu and Ms Justine Bagyenda,” Ssekabira responded.
That is when the committee decided to summon Bagyenda to appear at the next sitting. When Bagyenda appeared, she appeared to have well-scripted answers to questions on the missing reports. She repeatedly insisted she is no longer an employee of BoU and, having handed over to her successor all the required reports as part of her handover report, she was no longer answerable for them.
But her successor, TwinemanziTumubweine, told the committee that Bagyenda never handed over the said documents.
Then Bagyenda insisted: “When you go through each closed bank, all the information is there. Every file. When you look at that, I said in that handover report, I sent in your office, there’s file A, Greenland bank, UCL please take time to read them, it’s in my handover report.”