In the run-up to last week’s release of the committee on commission’s statutory authorities and state enterprise’s (COSASE) report on the closure of seven banks by Bank of Uganda (BOU), the excitement by lawmakers and Ugandans that had followed the proceedings on live TV coverage was palpable.
However, there seems to have been an anticlimax, with the report being the butt of jokes by a section of lawmakers and Ugandans on social media who have since taken issue with what they have labelled as stale and shallow recommendations, among others.
On Tuesday, outgoing COSASE chairperson, Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri County) was forced to put up a strident defence of his committee’s report after listening to fellow legislators punch holes in it for over two hours. In his ‘defence’, Katuntu, a practicing advocate of the High Court, cautioned the House to debate the report soberly, make recommendations that “will pass the legal test” to avoid the specter of those implicated successfully challenging it in courts of law.
“We worked under very hard circumstances. We reviewed and analyzed thousands of documents within four days to write this report. We did our best in the circumstances,” Katuntu said.
Among the alleged glaring omissions from the report is a failure to explicitly name individuals implicated in an intricate web of criminality, flagrant flouting of the law and conflict of interest which cost the taxpayers colossal sums.
But Katuntu was quick to allay the concerns of a section of lawmakers intrepid enough to say that committee members had received ‘sweeteners’. Katuntu told the House that the committee had considered the pros and cons of naming individuals and had decided against it. It is apparent in the report that BOU’s top brass made decisions affecting banks and depositors without any evidence of meetings and minutes.
This, Katuntu said, made it hard for the committee to name individuals outside Justine Bagyenda, the then director of supervision at BOU and Ben Ssekabira who was the liquidator for Greenland Bank, International Credit Bank and Co-operative Bank.
“How do you name people when there are no minutes of meetings and those who admit to have attended don’t remember other participants?”
Katuntu said, adding,
“this report is a probe to bring facts to the fore, not a judgment against anyone. The House is free to accept the recommendations as they are in the report, amend them or reject them outright.”