By Edwin Muhumuza
Debate on the COSASE report starts this Tuesday (26 February) on the floor of parliament amid high expectations that maybe officials implicated by the probe will be brought to book. What the public is demanding for already are the heads of the culprits.
When it was finally completed and read to the house a section of the public said it had promised too much but only to deliver too little.
While appearing on the Capital Gang Radio Show, Chairperson Abdu Katuntu expressed disgust that members of the public did not appreciate the role of other state institutions. This was in response to claims that his report was toothless and that culprits would walk away free as had been noted in other previous parliamentary reports especially the oil handshake report.
…‘a parliamentary committee report goes to the house where it may be adopted, dismissed or amended. When you have government institutions, they work in accordance with the law. Why we talk about the rule of law is to have different institutions perform different roles. Do not expect a parliament of a republic or a parliament of any country to start having the powers to prosecute or arrest. What will the Judiciary do, Katuntu argued!’
In 2017, Ugandans were angry that 36 government officials shared Shs.6 billion oil bonus code-named the “golden presidential handshake” by officials from the Justice ministry, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), Ministry of Finance among others. It was this same committee that probed the saga and in public view nothing has been done about the officials. This was one of the issues that Katuntu had to explain in recent weeks amid intense criticism from sections within his FDC party including his successor MP Mubarak Munyagwa for what they said was incompetence during his two and a half tenure as COSASE Chairman.
Now another major report is due for debate by public representatives and the question being asked is what will the discussion help if nothing may be done to those the report seems to indict?
Katuntu says, ‘our focus was in the actions more than individuals because at the end of the day there are state agencies that should be able to take up the individuals. What we did was to say, look here, actually, we used two words deliberately, the officers and officials who participated in this process should take full and personal responsibility. That covers their actions but we imagine that other state agencies now go and look at exactly who handled this process’.
For over two months, Bank Of Uganda (BOU), officials led by the governor Tumusiime Mutebile appeared before the committee chaired by the Bugweri County MP to answer to queries raised by the auditor general’s confidential special audit report which revealed weaknesses in the management of Central Bank and questioned the Governor and his team for the hitches in the closure of at least seven commercial banks.
The sale of Crane Bank, however seemed to have opened a can of worms after the proprietor businessman Sudhir Ruparelia accused Bank of Uganda of being unfair. Crane Bank was a commercial bank licensed and supervised by the Bank of Uganda, the national banking regulator with total assets amounting to approximately UGX 1.81 trillion employing over 600 staff.
This was a much bigger financial entity compared to the other defunct banks and certainly had to attract immense public attention including the media. In his new report to Parliament, the Auditor General, Mr John Muwanga, queried BoU officials on the flaws in the closure of Teefe Bank (1993), International Credit Bank Ltd (1998), Greenland Bank (1999), The Co-operative Bank (1999), National Bank of Commerce (2012), Global Trust Bank (2014) and the sale of Crane Bank Ltd (CBL) to dfcu (2016)
Most Ugandans are aware that the closure of Crane Bank by Bank of Uganda was illegal, what remains to be seen is what happens to the culprits that were engaged in this illegality and whether other agencies such as the Inspectorate of Government, the ministry of Finance, Criminal Investigations Department of Police will bite.