President Museveni convened a meeting between Bank of Uganda (BoU) top officials and MPs on the parliamentary probe committee in a bid to nip in the bud the ongoing inquiry but his efforts were unsuccessful, sources familiar with the negotiations revealed to us.
Mr Museveni reportedly told a Cabinet meeting this week that he convened a meeting between BoU and MPs on the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) before the current investigations into the operations of the central bank, but bank officials did not support his idea.
Sources that attended the meeting intimated that the President informed the ministers that BoU officials, whom he reportedly branded as “arrogant”, rejected his guidance, leaving him with no alternative but to support the probe.
In their defence, BoU officials told Mr Museveni in the meeting that the central bank is an independent institution and does not capitulate to any authority.
The bank team reportedly cited Article 161(2) of the Constitution that provides that in performing its functions, BoU shall conform to the Constitution but shall not be subject to the direction or control of any person or authority.
We could not independently verify these accounts, but a highly-placed source familiar with the efforts intimated to us in confidence that the President’s meeting with Cosase’s Abdu Katuntu preceded the commencement of, and was intended to prevent the ongoing inquiries.
Mr Katuntu yesterday declined to discuss details of the meeting he had with the President and BoU officials.
“Ask [me] about things which happened in the committee [proceedings] and I will tell you everything. But if tomorrow I go and meet somebody and we discuss things and I come and tell you, it makes no sense,” he said.
Ms Charity Mugumya, BoU’s director for communication, was unwilling to be drawn into talking about the high-level meeting, saying: “I do not know what you are talking about and I cannot comment”.
Mr Museveni on Tuesday re-echoed his frustration with graft at the central bank, telling anti-corruption crusaders that there are “bean weevils” at BoU and Uganda Revenue Authority.
“Bank of Uganda, there is corruption there! There is kawunkuumi [bean weevils] there now,” Mr Museveni said at an anti-corruption conference in Kampala on Tuesday.
He rejected the notion that poor pay breeds stealing of taxpayers’ money.
During the Cabinet meeting on Monday, Mr Museveni said he disagreed with BoU on the sale of Greenland Bank in 1999 and the closure and sale to dfcu of Crane Bank in 2016, but that the central bank executives did not listen to him.
He reportedly shot down a proposal by Finance minister Matia Kasaija for Cabinet to pass a resolution to halt the inquiries into BoU on grounds that the emerging disclosures about the inner working of the banks, and lapses, eroded investor confidence and could throw the economy into a tailspin.