By Mike Ssegawa
A sharp eye should be put on what is going on at the Bank of Uganda.
There must be a lot of rot that goes on simply because there is no serious watchman watching the financial watchman of Uganda.
For a long time, Ugandans have wondered; why is the economy getting a beating from anything that blows at it, and thus many businesses were staggering uncontrollably.
The shilling has often swung like pendulum depending on what slight wind was blowing through the economy as if there is nothing like a central bank to cushion it against any little tide. Only in Uganda is absence of rain for a month that pushes shilling to lose about Sh200 against the dollar. And a shock like delays in fuel supplies for a week further makes the shilling slide, let alone other serious things like a huge importation bill and wars in the neighbouring countries.
The uncontrollable interest rates, plus inflation, have beaten many business people out of the fast lane, and crippled and condemned their growth in any business of their choice.
Some people argued the people at the central bank were farting on their chairs as they swung their hands in the air saying they were operating a free market economy and therefore did not want to interfere with market forces. That was a confirmation of what was earlier stated in rumours that indeed the people employed in the Central Bank were hired to earn huge pay, and nothing else.
No wonder in the run up to the 2016 elections, the governor, Mr Emmanuel Mutebile, fell ill, and spent more than a year outside his office. Some people actually argued, Governor Mutebile never stepped in the bank for personal reasons rather than ill health –.
Since the collapse of Crane Bank last year, the story keeps returning with little twists to the narrative from one told to the public before.
The bank, which was one of the top four in the country, was closed after a run on the bank hinged on reports that Bank of Uganda was about to tie a huge stone and throw it at the rock bottom of the sea. The rumour came to pass, despite earlier denials from the Central bank that the bank was in good financial position.
DfCU took over the remains of Crane bank and the central bank been reported to be conducting an audit of the bank’s book to realize what could have gone wrong.
From the earlier reports of insider lending coupled with poor supervision, now reports in the media point to allegations of fraud.
The question is – since when? What happened? What changed? What is the untold story?
Government owned newspaper New Vision on Sunday decided to run a story about Crane Bank fraud, putting its former proprietor Sudhir Ruparelia on the spot as owing Bank of Uganda a whopping Sh400 billion.
According to the stories, for all its intentions, which was run before papers went to court, but still didn’t seek out Crane Bank’s side of the story, the proprietors of the bank, headed by Sudhir, used “sophisticated” methods to defraud the bank of the Sh400 billion and therefore wanted court to force the businessman to vomit the cash.
In using the word “sophisticated” the Bank of Uganda wants to excuse itself that it was fooled, rather, to escape culpability in the loss depositors faced when Crane Bank was put under receivership.
To expose the Bank of Uganda as inept and that it supervisory arm was either weak, incompetent or compromised, it has taken the central bank to hire forensic investigators and auditors to realize the ownership of the bank was fully under the control of Sudhir, who now the Bank of Uganda says they discovered he owned the bank 100%.
The auditors also discovered that Crane Bank never remitted NSSF of its employees in billions of shillings – which is a slap on the face of both Bank of Uganda and the NSSF management if they could not detect that the Number 3 bank in the country was not remitting its obligations to its workers.
And that the other directors of the bank were not taking an active role in the running of the bank.
These and some others are some of the things Sudhir should be answering for in courts of law, which he should if they hold any grain of truth. However, the most important question on the lips of many descending people is – where was Bank of Uganda when a bank located less than 50 metres from its premises, was carrying out these “sophisticated” machinations.
Was Sudhir acting alone? Was he acting with help from people within the central bank and other agencies such as NSSF?
Truth be told – nothing among the litany accusations against Sudhir in person, are too sophisticated to detect. In fact – since the inception of money laundering laws, the bank of Uganda has detected malevolent money transacted in different banks and it has responded so. The Bank also apparently, should look at books of accounts of every bank and forex bureaus before the day closes, thus to be able to diagnose a problem before it escalates. What actually made Crane Bank get away with fraud reportedly orchestrated by its proprietor? Who in Bank of Uganda turned a blind eye when Sh400 billion was over years disappearing from the bank?
Someone, starting with Governor Mutebile, and others in the Central Bank, must join Sudhir in the dock, as hard questions are posed.
It is also surprising that New Vision in its reports, decided not to ask Bank of Uganda any questions, and instead concentrated to transcribing the intention to sue papers which had not been delivered to court or served to the defendant, at least according to the admission of New Vision on Tuesday that Sudhir had not been served by the time their one sided hair-raising report was made in Sunday Vision.
Rather than portray the stealth methods used by one businessman to divert money from a private bank, the Central Bank proved to us how incompetent and aloof it is in its mandate to keep a close eye on the financial institutions. Like the New Vision report shows us, what fraud can go into the bank undetected for up to a period of three years?
The story which New Vision is running in series, in my opinion is a narrative against Sudhir, trying to cover its ineptitude.
Yes – beyond Crane Bank troubles – Ugandans should keep an eye on this case as every day, it will expose how the Bank of Uganda has more rot that any bank they have ever closed in the country. And by the time they are through with the Sudhir, we should expect heads to roll. For if Sudhir made gross mistakes in his bank, he was helped and encouraged by a god father in Bank of Uganda. Who is it? The godfather or godfathers must come out of the hiding.
Before signing out, is it not this same bank President Museveni said gave him a loan after trying in futility Stanbic bank which inherited a Ugandan citizens bank, UCB and also Standard Chartered bank where he was ignored? Is it not Crane Bank that National Bank of Commerce was entrusted to after it wound up its operations in similar fashion as Crane Bank? Did Bank of Uganda do its home work before it entrusted the National Bank of Commerce to Crane Bank? Who is fooling who?
In dragging Sudhir down the dock, Bank of Uganda is helping to expose its stinking rot in its corridors and chambers, far away from the reach of many eyes.
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