14 December 2018

Uganda: MPs to Investigate BoU Directors' Wealth

Parliament — The Parliament's committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) that is probing the closure of commercial banks has announced an investigation into Bank of Uganda (BoU) directors' wealth.

Deputy Governor Louis Kasekende will be investigated by a special sub-committee after Aruu South County MP Odonga Otto tabled documents showing 72 land titles of prime plots said to be owned by him in Kampala and Wakiso.

Mr Otto also tabled declaration forms indicating that Mr Kasekende submitted to the Inspector General of Government (IGG) only six properties during the assets declaration before the ombudsman.

The directors, however, have not been accused of any wrongdoing. And at the moment, there is no evidence that the properties being investigated were illegally acquired.

The revelations about Kasekende and Bagyenda's wealth triggered a flashpoint in the committee as MPs rejected attempts by the inquiry chairman, Mr Abdu Katuntu, to have the titles only tabled before a sub-committee.

Tensions were only defused after the committee retired into a closed-door meeting and resolved to allow Mr Otto table his documents but not to divulge details about the properties.

Mr Otto also tabled bank statements detailing the transfer of $1m (about Shs3.7b) to Ms Edith Kasekende's account by a Chinese firm, Shs1.9b from MMAKS Advocates and $71,000 (Shs262 million) that was wired to Kasekende's account by Tororo District Local Government.

"What is of interest to me is the transfer of $1m (Shs3.7 billion) to Ms Edith Kasekende's account by China Railway Group. China Railway Group is the company that constructed the BoU currency centre. The committee should pick interest," Mr Otto said.

Some of the properties, Mr Otto told the Committee, were transferred by Mr Kasekende to the ownership of his driver.

He said some of the acquired properties are linked to a finding by the Auditor General that discovered that BoU sold assets worth Shs164b of five closed commercial banks at a discount of 80 per cent yielding only Shs32b. "These people were closing banks to enrich themselves. The public has to know the motivation of some people to close banks. The Ministry of Lands authenticated the documents by giving a search certificate detailing that these 16 properties are in your names," Mr Otto charged at Kasekende.

A sub-committee chaired by Bukedea District Woman MP Anita Among, army MP Brig Francis Takirwa and Kiruhura District Woman MP Sheila Mwine will investigate the land titles and present a report on Tuesday to guide on the way forward.

Bagyenda issue

Separately, Kasilo County MP Elijah Okupa tabled seven land titles belonging to former director for commercial banks supervision Justine Bagyenda in prime areas in Central and Nakawa divisions in Kampala.

The investigation into the closure of seven commercial banks has hit fever pitch as MPs started on inquiries into the 2016 closure of Crane Bank, a commercial bank that had been consistently given a clean bill of health by the central bank before the surprise closure.

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