By Andrew Irumba
Four members of the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) board were on Tuesday sworn in without the fifth member Ms.Justine Bagyenda, a former Bank of Uganda (BoU) director in-charge of supervision.
Bagyenda failed to appear before parliament appointments committee for vetting where she claimed she was away for ‘some’ important matters.
The new board will now be chaired by former Central Bank governor Leo Kibirango.
The Finance Minister, Mr Matia Kasaija while presiding over the swearing in and inauguration of the board, asked members not to listen to detractors during execution of their mandate of combating money laundering and enforcing compliance in the country.
“Be firm on wrong elements but encourage and work with those who are genuine in transacting their finances. Do not be harsh to bank account holders but welcome them,” Mr Kasaija said at the swearing in ceremony held at ministry of Finance offices in Kampala.
He commended the FIA board for putting in place regulations that have saved the country from being blacklisted for deficiencies relating to control of money laundering and terrorist financing.
Other members of the board include Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Patrick Ocailap, Police CID Director Grace Akullo and Ms Patricia Mutesi, the Principal State Attorney in the Attorney General’s Office. Mr Sydney Asubo, the FIA Executive Director, is an ex-officio on the board who is serving his second and final three-year tenure.
The FIA board is still short of one member after Ms Bagyenda failed to appear before the appointments committee of parliament for vetting.
Mr Kibirango said the fifth member of the board, as required by law, will be appointed by the Finance Minister later. He said the FIA board values everyone’s contributions and there is need for collective efforts to fight financial crime.
“We shall continue to work as a team towards the goal of ensuring that Uganda’s financial system is safe from being exploited by criminals and make it financially stable to move the economy steadily towards the middle income status envisaged in the country’s Vision 2040,” Mr Kibirango said.
He said that FIA will make special efforts to strengthen international cooperation to facilitate investigations, prosecutions of financial crime and take all legal measures in fighting money laundering and terrorist financing.
“Other areas of cooperation include exploring the intricacies of money laundering and terrorist financing through the fast evolving block-chain technology space that has lately opened more risks through issuance of crypto-currencies and assets,” he added.
The FIA was established by Section 18 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2013 and charged with the mandate of preventing money laundering and terrorism financing.
Members of parliament had warned Ms.Bagyenda not to ‘bother’ her self-coming for vetting because they would block her vetting arguing that she can’t be aboard member of an organ that is at the same investigating her alleged involvement in money laundering. Pundits concluded that Bagyenda took the bitter advice and stayed home to avoid embarrassment at parliament.