KAMPALA – Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) investigating Bank of Uganda over the sale of seven commercial banks have slapped a travel ban on former Executive Director for Supervision Ms Justine Bagyenda.
The directive was issued by Abdu Katuntu, Chairperson of COSASE and it followed concerns raised by MPs on Ms Bagyenda’s willingness to appear before the Committee after her dramatic disappearance from the country last week.
Mr. Katuntu said: “For the Committee to be sure you will be here, it doesn’t harm to deposit here with Parliament your passports.”
Ms Bagyenda, who without official permission excused herself from the inquiry and left the country amid protests by the MPs last week re-surfaced on Thursday after an extraordinary summons were sent to her.
Cosase is conducting an inquiry into the conduct of Bank of Uganda and it’s officials in the closure of seven banks, with some ending up in massive controversy.
Ms Bagyenda, a key figure in the central bank’s drastic measures now under review is considered a prime witness, having been behind the drastic closure and handover of Crane Bank to dfcu Bank in 2017, before the resulting fall out forced her out of the central bank.
Ms Bagyenda and Mr Benedict Ssekabira, the director of Financial Markets Development Coordination, are particularly needed before the committee to present evidence of reports on how the value of assets of three closed commercial banks assessed so far, was reduced from Shs117b to Shs98b after the Central Bank took over the liquidation.
However, Mr. Katuntu on Thursday declined the request made by James Waluswaka (Bunyole West) who had demanded to have Bagyenda put under ‘Parliament arrest’ so as to avoid having her leave the country without the knowledge of the Committee.
Mr. Waluswaka had asked to have Ms Bagyenda’s passport kept by Parliament until the investigation is done adding that as much as this could help, it wouldn’t be a big solution as the former bank of Uganda staff is capable of vanishing and there is no way the Committee will ask the passports.
As such, he recommended having Ms Bagyenda kept within Parliament a proposal that was backed by David Abala(Ngora County) who said that Uganda is a liberalised economy with porous borders that Ms Bagyenda could use to sneak out of the country.
In his response, Mr Katuntu argued: “Whatever powers we do have are written in the law and we exercise them judiciously. I would decline to enforce any powers of confinement and it is also restricted, it is absolutely unnecessary.”
In a related development, Mr Katuntu has given the central Bank team three days ultimatum to provide all documentary evidence to all audit queries raised in the Audit report regarding the closure of the seven defunct Banks.
While making his communication, Katuntu said the Committee had spent so much time with Bank of Uganda, something he says is affecting the daily business of the Bank.
He said: “ In the next three days we get done with Bank of Uganda, we shouldn’t have Bank of Uganda endlessly. It isn’t good and it affects the institution. It will depend on how your team provides the documents we need for explanation.”