Bank of Uganda director of security Milton Opio confirmed to committee of parliament that the former executive director in charge of supervision Justine Bagyenda facilitated the theft of documents from the central bank.
Opio said that their CCTV camera’s captured Bagyenda’s assistant’s smuggling bags of documents from the central bank early this year.
Opio made the revelation under the directive of BOU governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, who had been tasked to explain whether the central bank had any case of stolen documents.
Over the past one week, the parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) has demanded quarterly progressive reports on the liquidation of assets of all banks closed between 1993 and 2017.
The committee chaired by Bugweri County MP Abdul Katuntu is investigating irregularities in the central bank and the mess surrounding the closure of at least seven banks over the years. The banks include to Teefe Trust bank, International Credit bank, Greenland bank, Uganda Cooperative bank, and National Bank of Commerce, Global Trust bank and Crane bank.
Opio told legislators on Cosase that; on March 13, 2018, the central bank received a confidential report about a security breach that occurred on February 11, 2018.
He stated that a review of the security cameras saw Bagyenda’s personal bodyguard and driver, breach security and ferry out three bags to her car on Sunday, February 11 before driving off.
Bagyenda told the committee last week that she handed over all the documents to the new executive director supervision Tumubweine Twinemanzi, who however denied being in possession of any documents. Mutebile also told the committee that he had never seen the documents in question.
In his 2017 forensic audit report, the auditor general queried the absence of asset movement schedules or ledgers indicating the bank assets at closure, the assets sold and their selling price, as well as performing and nonperforming loans.
Opio said that they had planned a search at Bagyenda’s residence but the bags were returned the following day at around 6pm but were still not checked at the entrance to ascertain the contents.
He said that when Bagyenda was confronted about the incident, she accused the bank of witch hunting her and insisted that the bags contained personal items.
“Those are some of the reasons why we were suspicious and we thought we’d be embarrassed if we went and searched the home and found nothing.
The following day she sent us an email and said why you did people do this? It seems the search was leaked to her. By who? We don’t know.” Opio said.
“She said she didn’t see [reason] why we [would] search her home without asking her. And the things which she took were her personal documents which she has been collecting all the time she has been working. And for us, we just said fine; we have it on record that documents went. She has to prove whether those were personal documents or not because we didn’t see them.”
Opio further reported that since the incident, Bagyenda was always required to disclose whichever documents were leaving office.
“After that, whenever she wanted to take documents she would call us. On 30th June or July 1 she called me in the afternoon, I was at home and she said; ‘I wanted to take my things home but the security people have refused me to go with them.’ Then I said; ‘I would advise you not to take anything out of the offices on a Saturday wait on Monday I will send my people to check the documents because we don’t want a repeat of what happened [before].’ And we agreed to that and the documents were checked the following week on Monday and they were personal items.” said Opio.
Katuntu asked whether a report had been filed on the incident and requested that the central bank avails it to the committee tomorrow.
He also selected a team of four MPs to review the CCTV footage of the incident and file a separate report.
The MPs include UPDF representative Francis Takirwa, Rukungiri Woman MP Betty Muzanira, Kashari South MP Nathan Itungo and Kabale Municipality MP Aja Baryayanga.
Bagyenda’s guard, driver and the security officers who were on duty on a fateful day have also been summoned to appear before the committee today.
“The files which we have been looking for are not available and we’re looking at the possibilities, the options where are these files. But we shall make our own conclusions after we speak to Mrs Bagyenda, but also after we have reviewed the footage. What is there now is it’s strange that the security rules of Bank of Uganda were breached and they were breached by Mrs Bagyenda, but we need to hear from her such that we make a fair conclusion. Isn’t it possible that the files we’re talking about are the files that made their way out of the bank? And if we come to that conclusion, we’ll be asking consequential questions; why would somebody take away these files.”
The ongoing parliamentary probe stems from a 2017 forensic audit by the auditor general who raised matters of irregularities in the closure and sell of the aforementioned commercial banks.
Contradictory statements are coming out of central bank staff, at times counter-accusing each other about the ugly mess of managing the banking sector.
Bagyenda, who snubbed the probe last week after reportedly flying abroad, has been mentioned as a key figure in the closure of the banks.
Meanwhile, Mutebile said that despite having retired in June 2018, Bagyenda still maintains security from the central bank.
“Because of the points she raised that there were allegations of witch hunt, Mrs Bagyenda asked for security measures pending the resolution of Crane bank case in court and the Bank of Uganda agreed to maintain security until December 31 this year.” said Mutebile.