BoU currency saga: there is need for more than just reshuffles

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Bank of Uganda

Kagenyi Lukka                                                                                        

In Human resource administration, transfers are normal. Transfers happen for different reasons ie some of them are meant to rectify mistakes that have been done before to improve the process flow. Others are meant to equip staff with new skills and competences for the new job.

Related to the foregoing paragraph, Uganda’s central bank, Bank of Uganda (BOU) recently announced that it had conducted internal transfers for staff at the bank’s currency centers.

Bank of Uganda runs nine currency centres in Kampala, Arua, Fort Portal, Gulu, Jinja, Kabale, Masaka, Mbarara and Mbale. The purpose of these currency centers is to store, process and monitor the supply of currency to the government and private financial institutions in the surrounding cities, towns, and villages.
The branches also ensure that new banknotes are circulated in all the geographical regions of the country.

Victoria University

According to authorities at the Institution, this move is meant to mitigate risks and strengthen internal controls in the currency operations. Operations at BoU is under the direct supervision of Louis Kasekende,BoU’s embattled deputy governor who under fire for several irregularities especially relating to the illegal closure and sale of crane bank Limited, irregularities in the compensation Of properties under the Departed Asians Customary board among others.

The daily monitor recently ran a story where it was reported that several staff at the Mbale Currency Centre had been suspended following allegations that some of them were caught by security operatives while trying to sneak out old notes in sacks. The old notes were reportedly to be destroyed, but the suspects allegedly tried to sneak them out of the currency center for selfish interests.

As a result, involved staffs were suspended to pave way for investigations as confirmed by BoU’s communications director Charity Mugumya.

The conduct of these staff continued to underpin a school of thought that BoU is under a free fall due to irregular and selfish interests of those expected to work for the better good of the country.

One may be forced to believe and conclude that the suspended staff learnt from their superiors at the centre ie there is inculpatory evidence that ‘senior technocrats’ at the Bank of Uganda have committed a myriad of punishable offences with impunity which relates to the analogy in Chinua Achebe’s book titled Things Fall Apart.

He stated, ‘When mother-cow is chewing grass its young ones watch its mouth.” Basically, this proverb means that children copy their parents and learn everything they do from them. Therefore staff at currency centers learnt from their supervisors!                      

Bank of Uganda  Multi-billion Currency Saga Part 1

In June 2019,the country was treated to the first stanza of BoU’s currency Saga.The abridged version of this saga is that Bank of Uganda had imported extra currency into the country in April 2019.

A plane chartered to transport new currency notes to Uganda from France had on April 27 landed at Entebbe Airport with cargo not tallying with the expected central bank order which sent shock waves to the institution and the country at large.

On learning about this anomaly, the ailing governor,Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile  immediately called Edith Nakalema, the head of the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU).  He wanted her team to investigate the events of April 27. Mutebile followed up later with a letter on May 08.Nakalema and her team acted by arresting involved staff who were later charged with abuse of office and corruption.

The charged officials have since been bailed out and the rest is history.

It was reported in the media that sometime last year, BoU requested Oberthur Fudiciare, which prints only two of Uganda’s bank notes, to print an undisclosed amount of notes. As part of its long running contract with BoU, Oberthur was to deliver these at Entebbe on April 27.

BoU had sent a team as normally happens to witness the loading of this cash in France. This team was comprised of the head of currency Mbale and the head of currency Kabale BoU branches. They arrived before the cargo and both headed to their workstations.

This news site has previously reported that this team used to travel on the same plane as the cash. However, the central bank changed policy. The BoU staff that inspects the cash travels on passenger planes. The cash travels on a cargo plane.

When Kuene + Nagel cargo plane landed at Entebbe on April 27, many expected all to be well. It was supposed to be carrying only exactly 20 pallets of freshly printed cash from Oberthur Fudiciare. These contained the cash BoU had ordered and expected to be invoiced for. (Indeed, while dispelling claims extra cash was delivered at Entebbe, a BoU official said that the central bank has been invoiced for exactly what they ordered).

However, problems started emerging when a BoU team led by a one Milton Baruku, which came to the airport to receive the cash, discovered that there were five extra boxes also, which looked similar as the 20 they were supposed to receive. They signed for only the 20 and said that is all they expected.

Where is Kasekende in all this?

As I stated earlier, Louis Kasekende the BoU deputy governor directly supervises the operations directorate.

He cannot be an angel in an institution where the departments that he supervises are painted with gross misappropriations.

First, we are yet to overcome the drama that characterized the illegal closure and sale of commercial banks. There are reports of cliques, tribalism, and sectarianism at the institution.Kasekende’s name always comes up on the top in all nasty cases at BoU.

In order to restore public confidence, trust and certainty in the financial banking sector, there is need for much more than reshuffles at BOU.There is need for general clean up at BoU that should see heads rolling. Big shots led by Kasekende should bequizzed to account and vacate their positions instead of collapsing with the bank!

The author is a current affairs analyst and aspiring MP Ikiiki County in Budaka District.

Lukka.kagenyi@gmail.com

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