Investigations into Bank of Uganda’s (BoU) alleged irregularities in the closure of commercial banks have started.
Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) is spearheading the investigations into irregular operations at BoU, including the mysterious and controversial sale of more than seven commercial banks.
Auditor General John Muwanga’s recent forensic report highlighted alleged corruption and suspicious activities at BoU, including unaccounted for money, missing land titles, disputed payments to external lawyers and customer loans that were inherited from closed banks and then sold at undervalued rates without justification, thereby misappropriating billions of shillings of taxpayer’s money.
The committee is expected to summon various stakeholders including governor of BoU Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, his deputy Louis Kasekende, former BoU director in-charge of banks supervision Justine Bagyenda, dfcu managing director Juma Kisaame, former owners of closed banks as well as Finance minister Matia Kasaija.
The course of action being taken by Cosase is welcome. However, there is already suspicion among members of the public that should any of the BoU officials be found culpable, then they might walk away scot-free since Parliament’s recommendations on matters like this are never implemented by the Executive.
As such, many people are wondering as to what the real purpose of the Cosase investigations into BoU is. Since 1986 when President Museveni’s administration came to power, there have been numerous corruption scandals, one after the other as though in competition with each other.
What is striking about all these corruption scandals is that the elite and those connected to the centre of power are always protected. Since 1986, only one minister was ever convicted of corruption, although the sentence was overturned on appeal. Furthermore, government also paid for the defendant’s legal costs!
As Ugandans’ confidence in public institutions is at its lowest and corruption at its peak, some citizens say the NRM government has steadily encouraged corruption during its 30-year rule.
It is painfully obvious that government’s message against corruption is very different from government’s actions against corruption.
There is a growing perception that President Museveni and the ruling NRM party have failed to root out corruption as they have always promised.
The 2018 Transparency International World Corruption Index categorizes Uganda as a highly corrupt destination, being the third most corrupt country in East Africa, Rwanda being least corrupt in the region. Uganda is placed at 151 out of 180 countries, with Nigeria close by at
148 in the Corruption Index.
In 2017, Interpol in collaboration with Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states and multilateral agencies stated that, “for Nigeria, the institutions are simply not working”.
Revelations of the billions of dollars being stolen from multiple government sources under the Goodluck Jonathan government exposed connivance by the banks. Evidence given by bankers in court supported Interpol’s conclusions that banks’ reporting procedures and information sharing rules were routinely compromised.
In Uganda, the parliamentary committee may have the best intentions. However, it is doubtful if their investigations will yield desirable outcomes with any implicated wrongdoer facing justice, imprisonment or returning taxpayers’ money.
Ms Victoria Nyeko is a media commentator.