Sometimes you read or hear a story and everything about it is in synch—the narrative, character, setting, sourcing and protagonists, etc.
But the narrative of the Bank of Uganda plane cargo currency saga seems to be changing in form and shape every other day. Every stakeholder, the central bank, police, government through the Uganda Media Centre and the State House Anti-Corruption Unit seem to want to control the narrative but in the process they have failed to fill in all the blanks.
They have all succeeded in one thing; sowing confusion, debate and finger-pointing. While addressing journalists on Tuesday at the Uganda Media Centre, Government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo asked police spokesperson, Fred Enanga to withdraw his Monday claim that the police raid and searches of homes of six BoU senior officials recovered documents, which suggested printing of unauthorized excess currency notes.
Without naming names, Enanga said the officials were still in detention. He told a press conference at Naguru police headquarters, “…the searches were done in the homes of the officials and a number of documents were recovered. With time, we shall get how much money was involved, how much [money] has been recovered, what was genuine [currency], what was unofficial, but genuine money,” Enanga said.
Speaking to journalists yesterday, Opondo who was not part of the police raid, insisted police is not investigating the printing of unauthorized excess currency notes but, rather, the unauthorized pallets found on the cargo plane belonging to 13 private individuals.
“It is wrong for Enanga to tell the public that extra money was smuggled in,” Opondo told journalists.
He further added that they have already engaged the Inspector General of Police, Martin Okoth Ochola and urged him to withdraw Enanga’s statement with immediate effect.
Opondo did not elaborate who he meant by “they”.
Originally, BOU governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile asked the Lt. Col Edith Nakalema-led State House Anti-Corruption Unit to investigate the saga but by Tuesday, she announced she had handed the investigation to the police criminal investigation directorate. And just hours later, the findings of police are being challenged by the same government.
Opondo also disputes Enanga’s assertion that the police investigation is looking into whether the printed currency notes are genuine or counterfeit. Enanga said the cash notes recovered from the home raids were sent to the central bank for verification of authenticity.
But Ofwono Opondo says, “We are simply finding out why the plane contained cargo it had not been assigned by Bank of Uganda. It was wrong and contradictory to the terms of the courier contract with the central bank.”
He also rubbished the raging debate on social media over the matter. He asked the public to remain calm, stressing that there is nothing like “extra money” flowing into the economy.
“There’s no extra money flowing in that was printed as police says. We have already asked the IGP to ask his juniors to have the statement withdrawn immediately,” Opondo said.
Interviewed for a comment on Opondo’s assertions yesterday, Enanga said calmly that police as an institution will make a formal response in due course.
Enanga, however, said, “As police, we stand by our first investigations, which involved the raid on the homes of the [BoU] officials where we recovered the exhibits…”
Enanga said, however, that some media houses carried some misleading headlines yesterday.
“I saw a headline in today’s paper and wondered where the media got the names of the [BoU] officials we had not mentioned in our statements,” Enanga said.
He said, that police is working closely with BoU to dig up more hidden facts.
“As we all know, this is still a developing matter we are following closely,” he said.
However, insider police sources said Opondo is playing to the political gallery. One source who declined to be named said Opondo is pushing a narrative supported by higher political forces whose reasons are not yet so clear. What is clear, however, he said, the political forces want to undermine the police investigation.
As the pressure piled, central bank Governor Tumusiime Mutebile also addressed a press conference. Flanked by other BoU officials, the governor said,
“…But that was an anomaly in the sense that the plane came along with 20 pallets, which were put on the plane… And there were additionally five other crates that I didn’t know what these pallets were or to whom they were consigned. That’s all I asked about.’’
He said he is not aware of any investigation other than the one into the unauthorized five crates on the plane. “I’m not aware of any investigations at all other than those mentioned in the anomaly I’ve just mentioned. The existence of five crates on the plane that was supposed to otherwise deliver 20 crates... of 20 pallets of currency which I received.’’
On Sunday, sources privy to the investigations said the government had summoned operators and owners of a UK airline to explain how unexpected cargo came on board a government-chartered plane with printed currency notes.
The sources said Bank of Uganda chartered the UK-based KUENE +NAGEL cargo plane to deliver the consignment of Uganda currency. The plane departed from Liege Airport in France and landed at Entebbe on April 27.
However, upon landing, it was later discovered that on the same flight was cargo belonging to private individuals. That triggered suspicion of foul play that warranted investigation. In a statement last Friday, BoU governor, Tumusiime-Mutebile said that on April 27, the central bank received a currency consignment but during the verification process, his staff reported an anomaly in the inventory of the expected consignment.
“Therefore, I requested the Anti-Corruption Unit of State House to investigate the matter. The unit has started investigations and BoU is fully co-operating with the process,” Mutebile said without divulging further details.
Ugandans have since lashed out at government, questioning the credibility of Bank of Uganda, which is supposed to regulate cash inflows into the economy.