By Norbert Mao

Once again Bank of Uganda is in the vortex of controversy. The stench of scandal hovers over Uganda’s Central Bank. Last year, the Bank was accused of spending millions of dollars in questionable procurements. The case of the Golden Jubilee Pens bought at 350,000 Uganda shillings each is still fresh in our minds!

Then came the Crane Bank debacle whose shadow seems to stalk BOU and may be the reason for Executive Director, Supervision Justine Bagyenda’s early exit. With the seizure of Crane Bank and its eventual fire sale, the formidable institution showed its feet of clay. The accusations and counter accusations in the Crane Bank saga was a telltale sign of dereliction of duty.

Now before the dust has settled on the duel over Crane Bank, we have the sweeping staff changes announced on Thursday 7 February. Overall some 48 positions are affected. The question in the air is why this hasty staff changes at a time when the Board is virtually not there. And furthermore, was there compliance with the law and the Bank’s internal regulations and acceptable procedures of recruitment and promotions?

The outgoing Communications Director Christine Alupo said that the changes are intended “to enhance operational efficiency and effectiveness” of the Central Bank. This has not stemmed the tide of cynicism and disquiet about the manner in which the appointments were made. Some people have expressed their grievances and dissatisfaction through official channels. According to a report in The Monitor one Mr Dickwitington Kimeze, who referred to himself as a “concerned citizen” has petitioned the Inspector General of Government through his lawyer. Other petitions are already in parliament.

The law is clear. Article 161(2) of the constitution vests the authority of the BoU in the Board. The Board which is chaired by the Governor is responsible for supervising the operations of BoU and also appointing the Executive Directors, Directors, heads of departments and other employees.

Whichever way the Bank of Uganda tries to spin it there are some glaring anomalies that raise eyebrows. The Bank of Uganda is a public body and is expected to adhere to the highest standards of integrity. Therefore it is bad enough for the integrity of the Central Bank to be called into question. In this case even the appearance of wrongdoing in the staff changes is bad enough. For that reason the appointments or transfers should be subjected to public scrutiny.

The public notice announced a “staff rotation”. A rotation in terms of employment cannot include new people outside the establishment. If you are rotating players on a team, you cannot bring someone from outside the team to play and call it a rotation. The announcement brought in six completely new staff. These include Dr. Tumubweine Twinemanzi (Executive Director, Supervision), Valentine Ojangole (Director Banking), Edward Mugerwa (Director IT Operations), Kande Sabiti, Dr. Natamba Bazinzi (Assistant Director Administration in charge of Currency) and Francis Kakeeto (Assistant Director Mbale Branch). These recruitments were reportedly made without any interviews.

Information available from the complaints to the IGG and copied to the Chairperson, Parliamentary Committee on Statutory and State Enterprises (COSASE) show that nine other individuals were promoted to the rank of Assistant Director without any interviews by the Board of Directors. In addition, five positions that are non existent in the current approved structure of the Central Bank have been created and filled.

One of the petitions (presumably from someone with inside knowledge) claims that, like it has happened before in public bodies like the Uganda Investment Authority, a clique of name droppers purporting to be getting their orders from State House is behind these changes. Their stated goal is to “clean up” the institution. Their methods are complete amoral. In the face of such an atmosphere of fear and mistrust most staff have retreated to their ethnic cocoons. Professionalism and honest discussion is being sacrificed on the altar of survival and careerism. BoU must be saved from itself before it degenerates into another banquet hall.

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