By DailyNewsUG Correspondent
DailyNewsUG |Parliament of Uganda|
Bank of Uganda director of security Milton Opio has told a committee of parliament that the former executive director in charge of supervision Justine Bagyenda facilitated the theft of documents from the central bank.
Opio says that their CCTV camera’s captured Bagyenda’s assistant’s smuggling bags of documents from the central bank early this year. Opio made the revelation under the directive of BOU governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, who had been tasked to explain whether the central bank had any case of stolen documents.
Over the past one week, the parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) has demanded quarterly progressive reports on the liquidation of assets of all banks closed between 1993 and 2017.
The committee chaired by Bugweri County MP Abdul Katuntu is investigating irregularities in the central bank and the mess surrounding the closure of at least seven banks over the years. The banks include to Teefe Trust bank, International Credit bank, Greenland bank, Uganda Cooperative bank, National Bank of Commerce, Global Trust bank and Crane bank.
Today, Opio told legislators on Cosase that; on March 13, 2018, the central bank received a confidential report about a security breach that occurred on February 11, 2018. He stated that a review of the security cameras saw Bagyenda’s personal bodyguard and driver, breach security and ferry out three bags to her car on Sunday, February 11 before driving off.
Bagyenda told the committee last week that she handed over all the documents to the new executive director supervision Tumubweine Twinemanzi, who however denied being in possession of any documents. Mutebile also told the committee that he had never seen the documents in question.
In his 2017 forensic audit report, the auditor general queried the absence of asset movement schedules or ledgers indicating the bank assets at closure, the assets sold and their selling price, as well as performing and nonperforming loans.
Opio said that they had planned a search at Bagyenda’s residence but the bags were returned the following day at around 6pm but were still not checked at the entrance to ascertain the contents. He said that when Bagyenda was confronted about the incident, she accused the bank of witch hunting her and insisted that the bags contained personal items.
“Those are some of the reasons why we were suspicious and we thought we’d be embarrassed if we went and searched the home and found nothing. The following day she sent us an email and said why did you people do this? It seems the search was leaked to her. By who? We don’t know.” Opio said.
“She said she didn’t see [reason] why we [would] searching her home without asking her. And the things which she took were her personal documents which she has been collecting all the time she has been working. And for us, we just said fine; we have it on record that documents went. She has to prove whether those were personal documents or not because we didn’t see them.”
Opio further reported that since the incident, Bagyenda was always required to disclose whichever documents were leaving office.
“After that, whenever she wanted to take documents she would call us. On 30th June or July 1 she called me in the afternoon, I was at home and she said; ‘I wanted to take my things home but the security people have refused me to go with them.’ Then I said; ‘I would advise you not to take anything out of the offices on a Saturday wait on Monday I will send my people to check the documents because we don’t want a repeat of what happened [before].’ And we agreed to that and the documents were checked the following week on Monday and they were personal items.” said Opio.
Katuntu asked whether a report had been filed on the incident and requested that the central bank avails it to the committee tomorrow. He also selected a team of four MPs to review the CCTV footage of the incident and file a separate report. The MPs include UPDF representative Francis Takirwa, Rukungiri Woman MP Betty Muzanira, Kashari South MP Nathan Itungo and Kabale Municipality MP Aja Baryayanga.
Bagyenda’s guard, driver and the security officers who were on duty on a fateful day have also been summoned to appear before the committee tomorrow.
“The files which we have been looking for are not available and we’re looking at the possibilities, the options where are these files. But we shall make our own conclusions after we speak to Mrs Bagyenda, but also after we have reviewed the footage. What is there now is it’s strange that the security rules of Bank of Uganda were breached and they were breached by Mrs Bagyenda, but we need to hear from her such that we make a fair conclusion. Isn’t it possible that the files we’re talking about are the files that made their way our of the bank? And if we come to that conclusion, we’ll be asking consequential questions; why would somebody take away these files.”
The ongoing parliamentary probe stems from a 2017 forensic audit by the auditor general who raised matters of irregularities in the closure and sell of the aforementioned commercial banks.
Contradictory statements are coming out of central bank staff, at times counter-accusing each other about the ugly mess of managing the banking sector. Bagyenda, who snubbed the probe last week after reportedly flying abroad, has been mentioned as a key figure in the closure of the banks.
Last Thursday when asked by MPs on Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) about quarterly progress reports concerning BoU’s liquidation of Greenland Bank since 1999, Ms Bagyenda claimed she handed over quarterly progress reports of defunct Greenland Bank to her successor Dr. Tumubweine Twinemanzi but he denied he ever received such reports during the handover.
BoU Governor also denied he ever received the reports in his office. Bank of Uganda’s Director for Financial Markets Development Coordination, Mr. Benedict Ssekabira said during the probe last Thursday that he forwarded documents to Bagyenda concerning the liquidation of Greenland Bank
Mr. Orech on Tuesday told MPs that Bagyenda claimed some of the documents she took home were her personal property. He said Bagyenda was helped by a certain BoU driver and security officers who were on duty to put documents in a car. MPs have ordered Mutebile to return with the officers for questioning tomorrow.
He said the documents were moved out of BoU on Feb 11, 2018 by Bagyenda. And that he wrote a report about Bagyenda’s illegal action. But when MP Nathan Byandala asked the officer what happened after he submitted the report to his superiors, he said no action was ever taken against Bagyenda.
He said a search warrant was later obtained to search Bagyenda’s home for missing documents but later, he said, the search was called off after Bagyenda claimed she was witch hunted by some BoU staff. At the time of her retirement Bagyenda was not on good terms with Mutebile who sacked her. She would later drag her to the Inspector General of Government for unfair dismissal.
Cosase Chairman Abdu Katuntu has formed a committee to examine documents that were returned but by Bagyenda but also get more information on missing documents. The MPs were supposed to report to him by end of Tuesday this week.
Bagyenda could also have taken documents related to Crane Bank Limited takeover as she participated in the process of selling its assets and liabilities to DFCU Bank.
Sudhir: Crane Bank Chief whose bank was fraudlents taken over by the BoU Mafia Cabal
Greenland Bank’s loans were sold together with loans of International Credit Bank (ICB) and the Cooperative Bank at Shs8.89 billion, following a 93 percent discount, to mysterious company Nile River Acquisition.
On May 24, 2007, contracted by BoU, JN Kirkland & Associates evaluated the remaining assets of the three closed banks and identified a suitable firm, M/s Octavian Advisors, LP which expressed interest to purchase these assets at USD.10.0m from BOU. But following further negotiations with BOU, M/s Octavian Advisors, and LP registered Nile River Acquisition Company in Mauritius, a tax haven in order to transact with BOU.
“In December 2007, BOU signed an agreement with Nile River Acquisition Company (NRAC) to sell the debt portfolio of Greenland Bank, ICB and Cooperative bank at USD.5, 25m (UGX.8.898, 736,349). The debt portfolio comprised of Secured, Poorly Secured, Unsecured and Unknown loans amounting to UGX.135, 054,430,888. The details of the loan portfolio are in table below. The sale of the loans to NRAC resulted in a variance of Shs126.155 billion,” the Auditor General John Muwanga’s special audit report of BoU on defunct banks says.
However, NRAC would assign Nil Investments Limited, a local company to collect the debts on its behalf.
BoU deputy governor, Dr. Louis Kasekende and Mr. Ssekabira could not convince Cosase MPs on why they sold all categories of the loans belonging to the three banks in a lumpsum.
In his report, Mr. Muwanga said that by combining secured loans with those unsecured, poorly secured, unsecured and unknown, BoU lessened the value of secured loans which valid documentation and security.
Last week, BoU officials said the assets of the three banks were sold under English Laws which favours the buyer- M/s Octavian Advisors, LP which domiciled in Great Britain. MPs were shocked because, in case of a dispute between BoU and the company, I would be resolved in Britain and not Uganda because the agreement does not mention Ugandan laws.
Meanwhile, Mutebile said that despite having retired in June 2018, Bagyenda still maintains security from the central bank.
“Because of the points she raised that there were allegations of witch hunt, Mrs Bagyenda asked for security measures pending the resolution of Crane bank case in court and the Bank of Uganda agreed to maintain security until December 31 this year.” said Mutebile.