KAMPALA – A group of Members of Parliament on Thursday kick started what they described as a campaign to block the reappointment of Justine Bagyenda to the Board of the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA).
On May 7, Minister Matia Kasaija wrote to the Speaker of Parliament, indicating that Bagyenda, who was in February sacked as director for supervision at Bank of Uganda (BoU), is being re-appointed to the board of FIA, which is currently investigating her following revelations that she had stashed billions on bank accounts.
And now Kasambya County MP Louis Mbwatekamwa Gaffa, Manjiya County’s John Baptist Nambeshe and Ngora County MP David Abala have vowed to pressure Parliament’s Appointments Committee to block Bagyenda’s reappointment.
“This is the board that is meant to oversee and control money laundering; it becomes a challenge, where person under investigation on money laundering is made a member,” said Abala.
Mr Mbwantekamwa questioned how Bagyenda, a supervisor of commercial banks, became a billionaire in such as short a time.
“We are here to appeal to members of the appointments committee that we are not going to accept this; Ugandans are watching and the population is becoming poorer, every other day,” said Mbwatekamwa.
Nambeshe said, “You cannot confirm the appointment of Justine Bagyenda who has acquired wealth prematurely and we condemn her reappointment in the strongest terms possible and we call on the speaker to hear the cries of Ugandans because she will import her corruption tendencies to the Financial Intelligence Authority.
Abala said, “She does not qualify to be reappointed to that committee and she is a Christian and according to the book of Deuteronomy in the Bible it states, thee shall not steal and if she is a real Christian, she should tell us where she got the money and I call upon the powers in Parliament to block her from appearing before the appointments committee.”
According to Public Service standing orders, any officer of government under-interdiction is not fit for appointment for any other position until he or she is cleared.
The move comes a day after a youth advocacy group asked Parliament to prevail on Finance Minister Matia Kasaija over his reappointment of Bagyenda.
In a July 23 letter to Mr Abdu Katuntu, the chairman of the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE), Youth Power Research Uganda, said the committee is mandated to monitor the operations of government agencies and that Mr Kasaija should be summoned to explain the circumstances under which he reappointed Bagyenda to FIA, the same agency that is investigating her over allegations of money laundering.
“We, therefore, appeal to COSASE to summon the Finance Ministry, which is the line Ministry, to explain the circumstances which led to the appointment of a person to the board of an organization which is supposed to investigate her, which can jeopardize fair findings of a comprehensive investigations report as a result of conflict of interest. We appeal to COSASE to summon Hon Kasaija to apologise to apologise to investors for obstructing justice. It should be remembered that H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museven has often ridiculed government workers who suffocate government processes.”
In the petition, the youth also claim that the accumulation of wealth by Bagyenda led to the closure of three commercial banks, including Crane Bank. The same youth advocacy group in May petitioned Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda over what it perceived as failure by FIA to investigate Bagyenda’s source of wealth.
A section of MPs have already drafted a motion that seeks to compel Parliament to set up a Select Committee to investigate the operations of Bank of Uganda and Bagyenda’s role in the closure of Crane Bank and it is already on the Order Paper.
The Inspector General of Government (IGG) is also conducting a parallel investigation on Bagyenda over allegations of illicit accumulation of wealth.
Following March reports that Bagyenda had Shs19 billion on three different accounts, which sparked a public debate on how she accumulated such amount of money within six years, a whistle blower petitioned FIA, demanding that Bagyenda be investigated. Whereas FIA executive director Sydney Asubo in March told journalists that the authority had opened inquiries into the matter, no report is yet to be produced.
It was reported that she had Shs19billion on three different accounts, which sparked a public debate on how she accumulated such amount of money within six years.
Barclays Bank Uganda and Diamond Trust Bank later apologized to her for exposing her accounts details in the media.
Leaked Mobile Money transactions from her MTN account showed Ms Bagyenda had transacted a whopping Shs499,428,906 million in three years.
MTN also apologised to Ms Bagyenda for the inconveniences, and assured the public that “all confidential customer information is handled and protected with the highest duty of care and integrity.