By Andrew Irumba
Kampala: Legislators have rejected a new inquiry by the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) into the closure of several commercial banks by the Bank of Uganda.
Our Spies have revealed that a standoff ensued in Parliament on Tuesday after legislators opposed what they called a move by Mubarak Munyagwa, the Kawempe South MP, to open fresh inquiries into the closure of Commercial Banks by Bank of Uganda (BoU). We have established that Munyagwa has already named a select sub-committee to carry out the inquiry. The five-member committee is headed by his vice chairperson, Ibrahim Kasozi of Makindye East Constituency. Deogratius Kiyingi, the Bukomansimbi South MP wondered why COSASE would reopen a probe into the mismanagement of BoU officials instead of using its mandate to demand implementation of the Katuntu report that was adopted by Parliament. “It is wrong to investigate the mess in Bank of Uganda again unless it was not concluded. We cannot move in circles. As Parliament, we concluded that matter and we are waiting for a report on the implementation of the recommendations by the Executive,” Kiyingi said. Simon Oyet, the Nwoya County MP, said that “It is against the rules of Parliament for COSASE to restart an investigation into matters that were concluded by the House without seeking new terms of reference from the Speaker. “COSASE should focus their efforts in making sure that the recommendations of the committee are taken up by the responsible authorities in government. So, to carry out fresh investigations, they must seek permission from the Speaker,” Oyet said. Budadiri West MP Nandala Mafabi said there is need for the current chairperson to write to the Speaker specifying what exactly they want to tackle afresh.
Kitgum Municipality MP Ms Beatrice Anywar, a former member of Cosase that participated in the BOU probe said: “it is up to them. If Parliament allows two reports, the Speaker knows better.” Also opposed to a fresh probe is Ajuri County MP Hamson Obua, who described such a process, if allowed by the Speaker, as “duplication and wastage” of resources and time. The controversy started last week BOU officials led by the deputy Governor Dr Louis Kasekende, appeared before COSASE, to respond to outstanding Auditor General’s queries about how COSASE has been handling inquiries into BoU operations. Some of the legislators think the Committee is tilting towards re-opening the probe that was concluded during the tenure of Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu. Before leaving the Committee after the expiry of his tenure, Katuntu, in his February 21 report that was based on the August 2018 findings of the Auditor General, confirmed irregularities in the dissolution and closure of seven commercial banks by BoU. The report exposed mismanagement at the central bank and proposed key reforms while providing wholesale recommendations against BoU officials accused of turning the bank into an enriching avenue.
Katuntu’s report recommended that the shareholders of the closed banks be compensated for the losses because BoU officials did not follow the due process while winding up the banks. Katuntu’s committee observed that BoU officials failed to account for Shs478Bn that the Central bank had injected in the stabilisation of Crane Bank before eventually selling it off to dfcu Bank in 2017, which was owned by Sudhir Ruparelia, under the cover of “liquidity support”. So last Tuesday when BoU officials were at parliament, Munyagwa tasked Kasekende to explain why BoU has been operating for decades without an accounting officer. He also sent him back to bring documents showing accountability for the Shs478b injected in crane Bank, which was blown away in less than six months. However, some of the MPs are opposed to this process and contend that Munyagwa’s move is likely to give a chance to BOU officials an opportunity to report fake accountability and ‘erase their guilt’ which was pointed out by the Auditor General and Katuntu’s reports. However, Nathan Itungo Twesigye, the Kashari North MP, who is a member of Munyagwa’s sub-committee, refuted claims that COSASE wants to reopen inquiries into the closure of commercial banks by BoU. He said what they to do is handle matters that never came up during the Katuntu probe.