By Kagenyi Lukka
If all goes as scheduled, Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) will by the end of this week finalise quizzing Bank of Uganda Officials over the irregularities that characterised the Closure and sale of defunct banks between 1993 and 2016.These irregularities are broadly detailed in the auditor general’s special audit report on defunct commercial banks .
The committee is now investigating the closure of crane bank limited, which was the third largest commercial bank at the time of its closure in October 2016. Crane bank was later donated to dfcu bank in early 2017 at a contested credit of Ugx 200 billion.
As the probe into closure of the formerly glorious cbl progressed, Members of Parliament were stunned to learn that the conflicted law firm, MMAKS advocates was paid over Ugx 900 million Shillings for the legal advice it offered BOU during the contested closure and sale of cbl.
What is more startling is that the total cost of legal fees rose up to the tune of Ugx 25 billion.
In yesterday’s interface with cosase, BOU’s Legal counsel, Margret Kasule denied having ever participated in the recruitment of external lawyers including MMAKS.
Of course, the ball had to roll back to the disgraced former EDS, Justine Bagyenda who nearly admitted that she singlehandedly recruited MMAKS prompting furious legislators to question why she usurped the roles of the legal department.
But again, one question that needs to be answered is why would Bagyenda procure external lawyers yet BOU has a fully-fledged legal department of about 10 lawyers?
Wouldn’t it have been wise to only use MMAKS in areas that couldn’t be handled by BOU lawyers?
Interestingly, the committee further learnt that MMAKS advocates drew its own terms of reference as Bagyenda flatly failed to adduce the letters of engagement but only quoted a letter written to the governor.
How can employer determine his/her own terms as MMAKS did?
MMAKS advocates law firm was paid Shs 914, 272,722 for legal advice during the Crane Bank takeover and were promised a further Shs 3 billion as commission for monies recovered from Crane Bank shareholders.
Justine Bagyenda, highly cited and tipped as a possible beneficiary previously read to the MPs a memo/document of November 30, 2016 requesting for payment of the lawyers without showing the work that was done. How could Bagyenda make request for monies to be paid for no work done?
Acting on Bagyenda’s letter, on December 2016, Emmanuel Mutebile the governor of the central bank endorsed payment of US $51,000 (Shs 180 million) as part payment of the legal fees.
Bagyenda, a key player in the premeditated move to close crane bank can’t in anyway escape accounting for these obnoxious payments made to lawyers who acted on their own terms.
Also, we can’t close our eyes to the fact that Bagyenda had a vested interest in these payments for she could have benefited from them. This is confirmed by the monopolization of processes ,lack of proper documentation and side-lining of the legal department which in this case, would be the user department.
In these conflicted deals, it is Bagyenda as director supervision who is solely responsible to account.
Like the norm has been, she can cite her usual accomplices, Benedict Sekabira and Louis Kasekende who by extension ,should also pay for such economic immorality inflicted on the tax payer.