By Peter Musisi
Following a recent letter that a Kampala youth group wrote to the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, demanding that government explains why the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) has not come out with any report concerning money laundering allegations slapped on the former director of supervision at Bank of Uganda, Ms Justine Bagyenda, the Authority’s executive director Mr Sydney Asubo, on Thursday came out, claiming unconvincingly that the investigations were ongoing.
Instead a report in Sunday Vision indicated that FIA would investigate city socialites like Bryan White, Jack Pemba among others but the question is of what is importance are these socialites to the Ugandan when top government official swindling tax payers’ money aren’t investigated? We want FIA to investigate the source of the wealth of top BoU officials.
Mr.Asubo claimed in the media that two months were a short time to conclude investigations on money laundering. Investigation into such a case, he said, cannot be rushed as concerned people want.
However, there is a problem at FIA as regards investigating Ms Bagyenda, who according to recent leaked documents had billions of shillings on her bank accounts. A whistleblower said then that the money is not in tandem with the salaries she earned in six years at BOU. Extra leaks revealed that Ms Bagyenda owns real estate properties around Kampala, though some sources say some belonged to her late husband.
Ms Bagyenda up to now is a member of the FIA Board, headed by Leo Kibirango who once served at BOU as governor. Kibirango, Dr Louis Kasekende, the BOU Deputy Governor and Ms Bagyenda share a long banking experience. The fact is that the FIA cannot investigate Ms Bagyenda since she sits on its board.
Reports indicate that Mr Kibirango as the Board Chair of the FIA is not interested in the agency investigating Bagyenda over illicit accumulation of wealth. He sees her as one of his own. That is the only reason why Mr Asubo has not done what he is supposed to do on Ms Bagyenda.
Meanwhile the public is also waiting to hear when the FIA board will drop Ms Bagyenda before serious investigations into her financial dealings commence. In the circumstances it only fair that FIA announces officially that Ms Bagyenda is n longer member of the board to pave way for a serious investigation into her wealth.
FIA seems to have even ignored calls from MPs to investigate Ms Bagyenda. For instance Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi wants Ms Bagyenda behind bars in Luzira over money laundering.
Nandala who is the former head of Parliament’s Public Accounts committee says it is ironic that Bagyenda who has been heading the Anti-Money Laundering committee at BOU was involved in acts akin to money laundering.
“That lady Bagyenda has been the head of Anti-Money Laundering committee and the law we passed, stated that whoever participates in money laundering has to be imprisoned for 20 years. That is why Bagyenda should have been in Luzira by now, and the law stipulates that the money she stole should be returned,” Nandala said at Parliament in March as he addressed the media.
However, much as Kibirango and others are determined to shield Ms Bagyenda, they should understand that she on the Inspector General of Government’s tracker on cases of abusing the leadership code that requires politicians and senior government officials to declare their wealth. Sources say she has in the past appeared at the IGG offices for questioning. This is worsened further by the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), which is demanding that she pays taxes she allegedly evaded. There are documents to this effect.
Kibirango and company stand to be isolated on this matter if they cannot act. Many are watching and continue asking questions.
For a young group to come up demanding that the FIA gives the latest on the investigation into Ms Bagyenda’s alleged illicit wealth, it speaks volumes even as Mr Asubo seems to say he depends on President Museveni to carry out his mandate.
Peter Musisi is a Concerned Uganda