Panafrican News Agency

Uganda government explains currency printing saga

Kampala, Uganda (PANA) – The government of Uganda has explained to the national Parliament what it says is the cause of a currency printing saga which has dominated public discussion for the past week.

In a statement read to Parliament on Tuesday, David Bahati, a junior minister in the Finance ministry, said the police and other agencies are investigating a case of possible breach of contract on the part of the airline that was contracted to deliver printed money from Europe to Uganda.

“Bank of Uganda (BOU) entered into a contract with M/s Oberthur Fiduciaire on 26 July 2O18 to supply and deliver printed matter. The contract requires that the supplier identifies at least two reputable carriers and insurers and advise the Bank of the applicable terms and costs. In this case, the supplier's communication indicated full charter for the three options that were provided, from which the Bank selected M/S Kuhne & Nagel to airlift the printed matter to Entebbe International Airport,” Bahati said.

He added: “In line with the contract, the Bank sent staff to travel to France to undertake the quality assurance functions of ensuring that the right consignment is loaded on the cargo plane from 22-26 April, 2O19. This activity started at the factory and ended at the nearest international airport where the plane took off for Entebbe. On 27 April 2O19, the printed matter arrived at Entebbe International Airport. As expected, twenty pallets destined for BOU were received, intact and well-sealed. However, the BOU team at the airport noticed five extra cargo pallets on board the chartered plane.”

The minister said that Bank of Uganda staff who went to receive the consignment from the airport reported that there were extra pallets on the plane to the Governor of Bank of Uganda, who in turn asked an anti-graft unit under the Office of the President to inquire into the matter.

A number of Bank of Uganda officials have since been questioned regarding the matter, and two of them, those who travelled on the plane from Belgium to Entebbe, were on Friday charged with abuse of office. Prosecution alleges that the duo failed to stop other cargo from being loaded on to the plane that was transporting the currency, or to report the matter to their superiors. The matter was reportedly brought to the attention of the Bank of Uganda leadership by other Bank of Uganda officials.

The government has moved to quell allegations that the extra pallets that were on the plane also contained money that was smuggled into the country irregularly, an allegation that has been made by critics.

Ofwono Opondo, executive director of the Uganda Government Media Centre, said that the extra pallets belonged to organisations and individuals that might have sought to take advantage of the chartered plane to transport their goods. The extra luggage was consigned to reputable organisations like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Mission in Uganda, Uganda’s Ministry of Health, and prominent businessmen.

The organisations listed as the consignees refused to confirm or deny the matter, while one of the businessmen listed, Charles Mbire, said he bought adhesive glue for his private boat in London and gave it to a shipper to transport it to Uganda. He said he has no clue how the shipper ended up putting on a plane that had been chartered to transport currency. Mbire is the chairman of MTN, the biggest telecoms company in the country.

-0- PANA EM/AR 25June2019