Prof. Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile on Friday stealthily made his way into Parliament’s Vetting Committee to defend his re-appointment as Governor of the Central Bank, with security personnel ensuring that media and the public did not even catch a glimpse of him.
The 71-year-old economist has been at the helm of Bank of Uganda-BoU since 2001 and in January, President Yoweri Museveni re-appointed him as Governor for the next five years pending parliament approval. Sources in the appointments committee described Mutebile as physically weak but mentally sharp.
The Appointments Committee had today chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga convened in Parliament’s Conference Hall adjacent to the President’s office to vet Mutebile amid tight security. No journalist was allowed anywhere close to the vetting premises by security personnel who had zealously been keeping watch ahead of Mutebile’s arrival.
Unlike his previous arrivals through the Parliament main gate, Mutebile’s official car passed through the President’s office gate on Sir Apollo Kaggwa road and made its way to the premises parking. Any view to witness his arrival using the parliament building was blocked by security personnel who would later ensure his secret access to the Parliament Conference hall.
Mutebile arrived shortly before 12:00 O’clock, the scheduled time for his vetting. Nakaseke South MP Luttamaguzi Ssemakula told Uganda Radio Network- URN that Mutebile was supported into the vetting venue with a walking stick and also supported with his aides.
“Physically he looks weak but mentally charged,” said Luttamaguzi who is a member of Parliament’s Appointments Committee. “There is no question we asked that he failed to answer. He wasn’t wheeled, he was walking through being assisted somehow.”
Luttamaguzi emphasized that Mutebile answered the Committee’s questions very well.
According to Luttamaguzi, Mutebile was questioned about issues of inflation, the economy and his ability to change the image of the Bank of Uganda. The Central Bank has in recent years come under disrepute and in 2018 attracted a probe by Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) in regard to the closure of defunct banks.
The Committee then chaired by Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu unearthed several irregularities in the handling of the Central Bank’s affairs and made recommendations for necessary reforms to be carried out.
Bank of Uganda was also involved in a dubious currency transportation deal when a plane it charted to exclusively fly in a consignment of freshly minted money arrived at Entebbe Airport laden with merchandise of several traders and other entities, prompting Mutebile to bring in the State House anti-corruption warrior Lieutenant Colonel Edith Nakalema to physically raid his Central Bank to start an investigation.
Soon after, reports also emerged of staff carrying sacks of old currency destined to the incinerator out of the Central Bank and instead of returning them into circulation, obviously fueling inflation. There have been no reports to the public over the two major cases of abuse and others but Mutebile told the Committee that he was doing his best to ensure that such scandals don’t happen again.
Mutebile also stood firmly against the government’s proposals to build a currency printing factory to start making the cash in Uganda, explaining that it was neither strategic as the project would be unviable with no other countries likely to seek Uganda’s cash printing services, nor prudent as the country and the world are moving towards more digital and less hard cash in conducting transactions.
Sources indicate that the committee approved Mutebile’s re-appointment and this makes him one of the longest-serving Governor’s of the Bank of Uganda with two decades of service under his belt and now heading to doing a quarter of a century at the helm of the country’s monetary policy and operations. Previously, Tumusiime Mutebile was Secretary to the Treasury at the time of restructuring the economy, also making him the father of Uganda’s modern fiscal regime.
The Bank of Uganda Act provides that the Governor and Deputy Governor shall be appointed by the President for a period of five years and shall be eligible for re-appointment. Parliament is yet to address the longstanding anomaly of the governor as head of management also being chairman of the board that supervises him/her!