The Parliamentary Committee of Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) Thursday started investigating Bank of Uganda officials regarding the queries raised in the special audit report by the Auditor General about the controversial closure of seven banks by the Central Bank.
Led by Governor Prof. Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile and his deputy, Dr. Louis Kasekende, BoU team entered Parliament at about 10:30 am.
Mutebile took his seat at 10:43am, but COSASE Chairperson, Abdu Katuntu started the meeting at 10:47am. He (Katuntu) had earlier arrived at 10:39am.
It should be noted that on 28th November 2017, COSASE requested the Auditor General to undertake a special audit on the closure of all Commercial banks by the Central Bank.
After seven months, the special audit report came out, revealing how BoU controversially closed some of the banks.
The seven banks in question include Teefe Bank, International Credit Bank Limited, Greenland Bank, Co-operative Bank, National Bank of Commerce (NBC), Global Trust Bank and the most recent Crane Bank Limited.
Katuntu started by revealing that the process has attracted a lot of attention and that it is going to be handled in most professional manner and in accordance with the law.
He asked journalist to be accurate with their reporting, noting that they weren’t going to hide hiding anything.
“It would be disservice to country if we do misrepresent these matters,” Katuntu said.
He noted that there is a public debate which is good for the banking sector.
“Get comfortable that this is a legitimate process and we also know the sensitivity of this institution to the economy and business at the end of the day,” he said, insisting that the process will be handled in accordance with the law.
“There isn’t a single document attached to the responses. We are going to consider these Banks in order from the Bank that was closed first.
Greenland 1st April, Cooperative Bank so we are going to take them in that order. I see a lot of misconception that this process is about a particular Bank (Crane Bank). We need preparation on a documents related to each Bank,” he added.
He explained that the objective of this process is to see if any Bank could have been handled better.
He said he is sure the current banks are interested in the process.
“Many of these people who own these banks want accountability so we need accountability. We are conscious of your constitutional independence…Independence doesn’t mean non-accountability. We know BoU is independent, but accountability is a constitutional requirement. What we are looking for is accountability not criminal prosecution.
In case there is anything we think falls within mandate of other institution, then we shall refer. There is no criminality that’s going to be discussed here.
At 11:15am, Muyanja Mbabaali , the Bukoto County South MP asked the Committee to make the debate in closed doors to avoid speculation.
He cited Rule 72, noting that there are Court proceedings about BoU and some of the closed banks.
However, Katuntu ruled him out of order, saying Parliament is an open place.
“It would be wrong that we are going to hide somewhere and discuss issues of national importance,” he said, adding: “But it is wrong to start from premises to close these proceedings and it will lead to speculation.
Katuntu added that the responsibility of answering is BoU’s and they will bring whoever they want.
It is at this point that Rubaga North MP, Moses Kasibante said that some of BoU’s responses lack supported documents.
“Members we need to take process seriously, read documents and internalise. What we would want is provide 35 copies then have time to analyse the report. We don’t have all time…we need to finish so it doesn’t spill over to others. Whoever comes, this business has to be finished [in time]; we need report debated in time so Parliament takes a decision,” he said.
Mutebile responded by saying: “We will try provide documents to answer questions.”
Katuntu said it is no use to carry the documents and have it there; Carry all documents that are necessary or supportive of all responses. Minutes of Board in relation to subject under discussion.
Asked if the Committee can have documents supporting BoU’s responses, Mutebile said: “It is quite impossible to reply to these demands within a day. We need a couple of days.”
Katuntu replied saying that “… We said a day because you said you have them. You’re the ones who gave the impression.”
Mutebile promised to submit on Monday afternoon.
Katuntu accepted, saying: “I don’t want impression that we are rushing anything. We will meet on Wednesday.”
At this time, Byandala joined the debate: Photocopying takes three days, how do you expect us to read all these volumes within two days?
Katuntu responded, saying: Can we have the documents by close of business on Monday? It isn’t postponement, it is accountability. Let us go through this process … Meeting adjourned Friday (next week)10am.