The failure by the recently formed Financial Intelligence Authority to investigate economic crimes has angered President Yoweri Museveni and sources say the president is preparing to crack the whip on officials there.
The FIA is a government agency established by the Parliament of Uganda to monitor, investigate, and prevent money laundering in the country, but as it stands now, despite several complaints brought to it for action, the agency seems to be inactive, something that has not gone well with the president who is facing international pressure to combat corruption to minimal levels or wipe it out completely.
“Like the case with Inspectorate of Government, the president is equally not convinced that the FIA is doing its work and he is closely monitoring how the authority performs before he cracks the whip”
The FIA and its board were established under the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2013 to among others to impose certain duties on institutions and other persons, businesses and professions who might be used for money laundering purposes.
The FIA is headed by former Bank of Uganda Governor (BOU) Leo Kibirango as Board Chairman while Sydney Asubo is the Executive Director. Having spent quite a long time in the banking industry, Museveni thought Kibirango would be best positioned to help his manager Asubo do the work he is supposed to do.
Case in point is FIA’s failure to investigate former director of supervision at BOU for alleged accumulation of illicit wealth. Recently youth groups in Kampala demanded that Asubo do something on Bagyenda case, particularly to investigate the source of Bagyenda’s Shs19 billion as shown by leaked bank documents.
Recently in the media Asubo said investigations to do with money laundering take quite a long time to conclude and that the two months since allegations against Bagyenda were lodged is such as short time to deliver results. But Asubo would further he was waiting for president Museveni to guide him on the investigation, something that confused members of the public.
However, analysts are not surprised by FIA’s failure to investigate Bagyenda. Bagyenda was sitting on the FIA’s board until her term expired and rumours say she is waiting to be approved by parliament for an extension. That is the scenario that FIA is faced with. And that calls for a bold action from the president and parliament if Bagyenda is to be investigated by the FIA, analysts say.
Some of the key challenges in fighting money laundering as outlined by analysts are; lack of a comprehensive asset recovery policy and legislation, lack of a centralized mutual Legal Assistance Framework (MLA), weak enforcement of laws, especially with respect to the wealthy and powerful individuals and shortage of financial investigative and prosecutorial skills.
Experts say who money laundering, which is part of the economic crimes, if left unattended to, has the potential to undermine individual financial institutions and ultimately the entire financial sector.