The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Matia Kasaija has come under fire in recent weeks. First, Kasaija disowned the controversial 1% Mobile Money tax before swallowing his pride by apologizing to Parliament for the remarks. He said the passing of 1% was in error, noting that it was supposed to be 0.5%.
While apologizing to Parliament on July19, 2018, Kasaija claimed that the press misquoted him.
However, before he apologized, he made another controversial statement- probably pointing to how disorderly his house is.
He claimed that the controversial re-appointment of Justine Bagyenda, the former Bank of Uganda Executive Director in-charge Banks supervision to the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) as a board member was in ‘error’.
He argued that the reappointment was made much earlier before her Bagyenda’s name was associated with money laundering claims.
In a May 7, 2018 letter to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, Kasaija re-appointed Ms Bagyenda to the FIA board even as she was under investigation by the same body.
Bagyenda is also under a separate investigation by the Inspector General of Government (IGG) over allegations of reported accumulation of wealth, while a motion demanding that a Select Committee be set up to investigate the operations of Bank of Uganda and her role in the closure of Crane Bank is still on the Order Paper.
Kasaija also re-appointed Leo Kibirango as Board Chairman, Patrick Ocaillap as Deputy Secretary, AIGP Grace Akullo and Patricia Mutesi to FIA board.
“Under Section 26(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, members of the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) board serve for a term of three years and are eligible to be re-appointed for only one term. Given the satisfactory performance of the Board during its first tenure, I recommend the re-appointment of the current members of the Board,” reads Kasaija’s letter.
However, Kasaija told journalists last week that he was working on deadline to have the new Board in place, but since she is under investigations, the appointment can be halted until she is cleared by the two investigating bodies, Inspectorate of Government (IGG) and FIA).
After Bagyenda’s reappointment, MPs expressed concerns regarding her re-appointment to the same authority that was investigating her alleged wealth that shocked Ugandans a few months ago.
Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Nuwagaba said the Appointments Committee should put on hold approving Ms Bagyenda until investigations by the IGG and the FIA are concluded.
“I hope sanity will prevail in the Appointments Committee to stay her vetting and approval pending clearance from the institutions investigating her,” Nuwagaba said.
Buhweju County MP Francis Mwijukye, a member of the Appointments Committee, warned: “That is wrong. If they had wanted to re-appoint her to the Board, at least they should have waited for the outcome of the ongoing investigations. In my opinion, the appointment should be stayed until investigations into her conduct at Bank of Uganda are concluded.”
However, in his response to the queries, Kasaija said that he made the appointment before IGG and FIA investigations began and that there is still ‘room for correction’.
“When I re-appointed her, the issues of money laundering and others were not yet in the press. There is no way I could have re-appointed her with question marks surrounding her integrity,” Kasaija said.
But when it was put to him that by May 7, it was public knowledge that Ms Bagyenda was under probe, Kasaija asked for another day to crosscheck. “I do not want to commit myself on something I am not sure of, I need to crosscheck,” Kasaija said.
Bagyenda’s tenure at BoU came to an unceremonious after her name featured prominently in the controversial collapse of Crane Bank.