Bank of Uganda officials use tea girls, cleaners, security teams to steal billions of shillings from the Central Bank, Watchdog Uganda has learnt.
Under normal circumstances, used currency notes that re-enter a currency centre are first reprocessed in tightly managed counting/machine rooms by note examiners who then sort it into good and bad money. Good money is strapped and labelled and put back into the system, while old and defaced notes are counted, recorded and holes punched into the notes and put aside for destruction. A similar amount equivalent to the destroyed notes is then supposed to be reintroduced into circulation.
According to online business news website CEO East Africa, every note examiner is assigned a specific amount of money and specific counting room and all operations are closely watched on CCTV that is supposed to run 24/7 and is supposed to be reviewed daily by a supervisor and reports made. During the money counting process, no other person, unless with authorization, is supposed to access the counting rooms, except the note examiner.
However, in a deliberately crafted scheme, during cash counting hours, note examiners would contrary to written protocol let in the rooms, cleaners and office messengers seemingly to either clean the rooms, bring in tea or water or run some errands for the note examiners. This cover would then facilitate the introduction into the counting room of containers such as waste baskets, polythene bags and tea flasks. Polythene bags that on entry contained snacks such as chapatis and samosa, would upon exit, be stuffed with money- that is not necessarily old, and is still reusable. This money would then be recorded as defaced, and sent for destruction.
“Out of the counting rooms, in a choreographed scam, the security teams manning the CCTV cameras, would either look away as this all happened, or for some reason not be in the monitoring room for a few minutes, so as to facilitate the delicate operation. Once the money was safely out of the counting rooms, it would then make it to garbage bags that at the end of the days is taken out of the banking premises,” the website stated.
Adding,“This process also involved the security supervisors who were expected to review the CCTV footage at the end of the day as well as the team in charge of old currency destruction whose role was to falsify the records on how much old currency has been set aside and eventually destroyed.”
In some cases, note examiners from other currency centres/branches would be allowed into counting/machine rooms and used to siphon-off money in their bags and clothes. This would often be with the collaboration/collusion of security teams at the exit.
In short, it would take almost the entire currency centre to carry out this sophisticated operation.
BoU issue tight rules to curb the vice:
Following the irregularities Bank of Uganda, BoU on Monday issued strict rules to mitigate risks and strengthen internal controls in the central bank’s currency operations.
In a memorandum to all Bank managers, the Acting Director of Currency at BoU Dr Bazinzi Natamba said no note examiner will be allowed to access a counting/machine room of another currency branch without the required authorization and that no staff other than note examiners should participate in the counting /machine room activities such as sorting, punching and scrapping of stocks.
“Always ensure that the daily CCTV recordings are reviewed,” Dr Natamba told the Bank Managers.
Adding, “Immediately stop staff from carrying into the counting rooms any items such as tea, water , eats , juices, among others , for personal use. Urgently remove waste baskets/boxes in the counting rooms.”
Recently, Uganda Police detectives were reported to be investigating Shs400 billion that the BoU officials transferred and stored in BoU Masaka Currency Centre in a room without CCTV cameras, meaning the money could be stolen without tracing it.
And last month, security operatives again arrested three staff of BoU in Mbale who were reported smuggling out money in sacks.