KAMPALA – The race for Bank of Uganda top jobs is back in the news, with President Yoweri Museveni considering the next leadership changes at the central bank following a series of inquiries into her management, first by Parliament and later by President Museveni’s State House Anti-corruption unit headed by Col. Edith Nalakalema.
With the contract of Deputy Governor Dr. Louis Kasekende ending this January, and Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile was not expected to serve beyond his current term, which ends in January 2020, a number of candidates have been considered for the much a coveted job.
If he serves his term to the end, Prof Mutebile will be the longest ever serving Governor. Probably he may be the longest-serving on the continent.
But why him?
Prof. Mutebile is one of Uganda’s best economists who rose to the ranks to become the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Planning in the 1980s.
As a modern economist who does not believe in planning it was surprising that he could actually become a Permanent Secretary of something, he did not believe in.
Mutebile is a free-market economist who is a hard-nosed believer in the private sector.
This country has over the last thirty years run on his beliefs. How did he do it? Nobody knows but he became the most powerful civil servant when the Ministry of Planning was merged with the Ministry of Finance to create the current Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development.
This merger led to the creation of the now-famous Permanent Secretary-Secretary to the Treasury. As an occupant of that seat, Mutebile called the shoot in the economy to date. His influence is still much around, as the economy runs on his ideas.
The current PS/ST Keith Muhakanizi and the former PSST the late Chris Kasami were all Mutebile’s loyalists. Before he left the Ministry of Finance in 2001, he personally selected and recommended Dr. Louis Kasekende.
Kasekende as Deputy Governor.
Dr. Kasekende run the bank for around one year before Mutebile joined him. Prof. Mutebile is not an administrator, he is a thinker and he left the management of the bank to Dr. Kasekende. Prof. Mutebile is credited for taming inflation in the country, liberalizing the economy and has had the support of the President. He is also believed to be one of the few people Mr. Museveni can tolerate when he has a view contrary to his. Even among the Bakiga with their intense religious divisions, Prof. Mutebile has been respected and seen as the unifying factor.
What went wrong?
Prof. Mutebile was not a hands-on person leaving Dr. Kasekende to run the show but the country’s weakness of religious and tribal divisions tended to destroy the trust between Dr. Kasekende and Prof. Mutebile. At one time the top management of the bank was full of people from the West. While Prof. Mutebile could not be blamed for this anomaly, unfortunately, he was silently fought for it.
Dr. Kasekende’s followers without his knowledge bad-mouthed Prof. Mutebile about this issue. It was then that Prof. Mutebile fought back and had it not been for Gen Salim Saleh, Dr. Kasekende would not be the Deputy Governor today. This misunderstanding created a vacuum in the bank. This vacuum was filed by those individuals who did not have Dr. Kasekende’s administrative experience and coupled with proven economics knowledge taking over the bank. They used Mutebile’ s position and Dr. Kasekende’s weakened position in the bank to fill positions. This completely disabled Dr.Kasekende but brought chaos to the bank.
Without Dr. Kasekende’s eye, the bank’s oversight supervision of commercial banks weakened creating the Crane Bank saga. The current power brokers in the bank do not have the management or economics experience and knowledge that Dr. Kasekende had and this has led to the internal instability in the bank.
If Prof Mutebile was in good health, the COSASE probe would not have happened the way it did. His strength still lies in the ability to say no.
Indeed, the COSASE extensively pointed at this internal instability.
In their report, Parliament reported to Mr. Museveni that the central bank was polarised by cliques. The report said all the staff interviewed indicated in a way that they belong to at least a clique aligned to either Prof. Mutebile or Dr. Kasekende, the deputy governor.
To ease the tensions at BoU, the tripartite committee also recommended the separation of the position of the governor from that of the board chairman and also highlighted the need for the President to create a second position of Deputy Governor.
So where does the bank go from here?
The bank needs strong management and good economists. With Dr. Kasekende’s weakened and Mutebile no longer able to take decisions in the bank, the bank needs new blood. Among the candidates that have been proposed, all have their strengths and weaknesses.
The person with the highest probability is Mr. Keith Muhakanizi. His contract has been recently renewed for three years as PS/ST. This means he is an unlikely candidate. He has recently had health challenges. This does not help his case. Like Prof. Mutebile he is strong-willed and can say no to the president.
Dr. Adam Mugume is another candidate. His name has come up several times. He is a good economist but without management experience, he may not be able to sort out the mess in the bank. He would be a very good Deputy Governor though that role has the docket of an administrator.
The other is Dr. Atingi Ego. This is a Dr. Kasekende loyalist and a good economist but has been out of the system for some time.
He may not be able to know where the bank will go.
The other candidate is Lawrence Kiiza. Mr. Kiiza was one of the good technocrats at the Ministry of Finance but while he was good and should have replaced the Late Kassami he did not have Muhakanizi’s credentials.
Dr. Joseph Muvawala the current Executive Director, National Planning Authority has also been fronted but has not proven himself as an economist and has no administrative experience. During his time in the Ministry of Education, he was known to be good at crunching numbers but has no track record.
Prof Ddumba Ssentamu has also come up. He is the former Vice-Chancellor of Makerere University, has no known strong economic views and he was unable to manage the University.
The most ranking outsider is probably Prof. Waswa Balunywa, a Museveni royalist and management guru.
While he does not pass as an economist, he has deep knowledge of economics and served on the Bank of Uganda Board for ten years. His views are similar to those of Prof. Mutebile and Dr. Kasekende and he has proved to be a trusted cadre. His re-appointment in MUBS stunned everybody.
His management experience can only be ranked next or ahead of Dr. Kasekende in terms of administrative ability. As a professor of management, he may be a better alternative.
But Museveni has his ways; the next Governor will be someone we least expect. It will be that person who listens to him and has his trust and fiercely loyal. Religion will play a card.