By Gad Masereka
Kampala: Officials of the Ugandan Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have refuted allegations that the entity was part of the Bank of Uganda saga of allegedly loading extra printed money from France to Entebbe airport.
The plane landed at Entebbe Airport on April 27, 2019, and was cleared by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) customs department in the presence of Bank of Uganda (BoU) officials, BoU security, Civil Aviation security, police and other security agencies. According to URA 20 pallets were expected but instead they received 25 pallets, which created a procurement anomaly termed as ‘Extra Cargo’, which has since become a subject of investigation. However it is reported that the extra cargo belongs to different individuals and organizations including businessman Charles Mbire, United Nations, USAID and Omar Mandela, the proprietor of Café Javas. Police said they were investigating possible printing of extra cash by some BoU officials, although government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo and Lt. Col. Edith Nakalema claim the investigation is not about money.
Eng. Ronny Barongo, the director for safety, security and economic regulations and other officials from CAA were appearing before parliament’s Committee on Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) to respond to several audit queries raised against the Authority. During the meeting, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the Kira Municipality legislator, asked CAA what their role was in the procurement process amidst reports that the Authority’s officials cleared both BoU and the private cargo on the BoU chartered plane. “Your name has been brought into this because if you look at the press reports, you; Civil Aviation and Bank of Uganda you are being assigned responsibility for what happened. So I would be interested to know what your role was or was not in this particular incident of Bank of Uganda…You see importing currency is no ordinary cargo, even you; you may have been alerted that something important is coming. I would be interested in knowing your role or no role in this.” Ssemujju said.
However, Efforts by CAA director-general Dr Mpango Kakuba to plead with the Committee to avoid discussing the matter were futile. He had argued that it is sub judice to discuss a matter that is being investigated. But his argument was rejected on account that the matter is not yet before court. Mpango later told the committee that no CAA official had been summoned for interrogation over the BoU chartered plane. He also asked Eng. Ayub Sooma, another CAA official to explain issues pertaining to clearance of cargo. Sooma said that CAA has no role in currency cargo verification and supply chain processes by the Central bank, since the only requirement is a notification about any shipment that is expected in the country, because the ground handling and clearing is done by regulated companies. He added that all currency verifications are done at the central bank.