By Stephen Wandera
KAMPALA. Legislators have quried the re-appointment of Ms Justine Bagyenda to the board of the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA), saying she is under investigation by the same authority over allegations of money laundering.
Ms Bagyenda was recently sacked as director for commercial bank’s supervision at Bank of Uganda (BoU).
In a May 7, 2018 letter to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, Finance minister Matia Kasaija re-appointed Ms Bagyenda to the FIA board even as she is under investigation by FIA.
Ms Bagyenda is also under a separate investigation by the Inspector General of Government (IGG) over allegations of illicit accumulation of wealth while a motion demanding that a Select Committee be set up to investigate the operations of Bank of Uganda and her role in the closure of Crane Bank is on the Order Paper.
Other officials re-appointed by Mr Kasaija to the FIA board are Mr Leo Kibirango as chairman, Deputy Secretary to the Treasury Patrick Ocaillap, Assistant Inspector General of Police Grace Akullo, and Ms Patricia Mutesi.
“Under Section 26(1) of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, members of the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) board serve for a term of three years and are eligible to be re-appointed for only one term. Given the satisfactory performance of the Board during its first tenure, I recommend the re-appointment of the current members of the Board,” reads Mr Kasaija’s letter.
But the re-appointment of Ms Bagyenda has kicked up a storm with MPs questioning how FIA will conduct a comprehensive investigation when she is a member of its board.
Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Nuwagaba said the Appointments Committee should put on hold approving Ms Bagyenda until investigations by the IGG and the FIA are concluded.
“I hope sanity will prevail in the Appointments Committee to stay her vetting and approval pending clearance from the institutions investigating her,” Mr Nuwagaba said.
Buhweju County MP Francis Mwijukye, a member of the Appointments Committee, warned: “That is wrong. If they had wanted to re-appoint her to the Board, at least they should have waited for the outcome of the ongoing investigations. In my opinion, the appointment should be stayed until investigations into her conduct at Bank of Uganda are concluded.”
Ms Bagyenda will have to contend with questions regarding conflict of interest over how the FIA investigation into allegations of money laundering against her can proceed when she is a member of the Board.
Oyam Woman MP Santa Alum said the Appointments Committee said: “We have handled an issue of similar nature before. We have to wait and see the merits of the case and then take a decision. For us as the Appointments Committees, we have to wait before commenting because I have not seen a letter about the things that you are talking about.”
Asked about MPs’ concerns regarding Ms Bagyenda’s re-appointment, Mr Kasaija initially said he made the appointment before IGG and FIA investigations began.
“When I re-appointed her, the issues of money laundering and others were not yet in the press. There is no way I could have re-appointed her with question marks surrounding her integrity,” Mr Kasaija said.
But when it was put to him that by May 7, it was public knowledge that Ms Bagyenda was under probe, Mr Kasaija asked for another day to crosscheck. “I do not want to commit myself on something I am not sure of. I need to crosscheck,” Mr Kasaija said.
“Those are things that can formally come through a petition and we consider them. If there are people who have information [about conflict of interest], then they will present it and we shall handle it. There should be no cause for concern or alarm,” Ms Lowilla Oketayot, the Pader Woman MP.