Latest CCTV camera footage has placed former Bank of Uganda (BoU) Executive Director in charge of supervision Ms.Justine Bagyenda as prime suspect when they captured her live conducting ‘unusual’ business inside the Bank premises on a Sunday, instead of going to church to thank God for the gift of life and the wealth accumulated!
As if that wasn’t enough, Ms.Bagyenda, who enjoyed unrestricted access to the Bank 24/7 given her senior position at the Bank, also summoned Bank of Baroda Managing Director Ashrin Kumar and renowned city Lawyer Kanyererezi Masembe to her office for a special ‘project’ which was to be carried out.
The CCTV footage that was provided to the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) by BoU’s Security Director Milton Opio Orech showed Bagyenda and her bodyguard Juliet Adikolet, using an emergency exit to smuggle the documents out of the bank.
When asked what the documents contained, Bagyenda’s bodyguard told the committee that she had no idea what she was carrying and Bagyenda claimed they were personal gifts and a hand over report from Pretoria in South Africa.
A second video clip showed two cars accessing the BoU premises on a non-working day, a Sunday afternoon, with the individuals proceeding to head to Bagyenda’s office yet they had not been checked.
“We are supposed to register all vehicles that come to the bank, but this wasn’t registered. The person came without clearance and the car came in without clearance,” Orech told the committee.
Asked by the committee to identify the individuals, Bagyenda’s bodyguard Adikolet said the question should be directed to Bagyenda who was present, but on MPs’ insistence, she identified MMAKS Advocates lawyer Timothy Kanyerezi Masembe.
Bagyenda identified the second individual as Ashrin Kumar the Managing Director of Bank of Baroda.
Masembe was one of the lawyers who were contracted by BoU during the sale of Crane Bank. The COSASE committee had on the previous day heard that the law firm had received Shs914m from BoU to handle the Crane Bank sale without terms of reference.
Masembe was to later be put off a BoU case against former Crane Bank owner Sudhir Ruparelia as the Commercial Court ruled that he was conflicted, having previously represented the businessman for over a decade.
Meanwhile, Parliament’s security director Opio out of the slip of the tongue revealed that the footage had been edited, prompting COSASE Chair Abdu Katuntu to ask him to present unedited video clips the next day.
KATUNTU INTERROGATES BAGYENDA
Abdu Katuntu [Committee chairman]: You have noted the dates where we have seen security breaches. Your bodyguard identified one of your visitors, the other was not identified. May we know who that visitor is?
Justine Bagyenda [former Bank of Uganda director for banks supervision]: It is the Managing Director of Bank of Baroda. Mr Ahhrini Kumara
Katuntu: Colleagues, lest have any clarifications you are seeking from Ms Bagyenda.
Anita Among [vice-chairperson, Bukedea Woman MP]: To the director security, is it a common practice that your staff enter bank premises without passing through searches?
Milton Opio-Orech [director security, BoU]: It is not a normal practice.
Among: What does your Human Resource (HR) manual say in regard to that?
Opio-Orech: All vehicles entering the bank should be searched.
Among: After finding out that they were not searched, what did you do?
Opio-Orech: Some of these things came out when we were doing our investigations and we are still continuing our investigations.
Among: Who is directly responsible for access rights and for these kinds of searches?
Opio-Orech: We have a structure in the bank. We have somebody who is in charge of all the security assistants. We also have a deputy director in-charge of operations who supervises.
Among: In this case, who was supposed to be responsible for that?
Opio-Orech: The whole group was supposed to be responsible.
Michael Tusiime [Mbarara Municipality]: To Ms Bagyenda, the Bank manual gives the category of the time to access the bank and particularly so for non-staff and visitors. They are supposed to access the bank Monday-Friday between 8:30am-5:00pm. In the second footage, you have visitors on Sunday. Did you know of the existence of restrictions on visitors on the bank premises?
Bagyenda: I was not aware.
Among: How long had you been at the bank?
Bagyenda: 35 years.
Tusiime: Ms Bagyenda, the same manual also provides for the time of access to the bank by staff and particularly so if it is beyond working hours and weekends. You ought to get clearance from the director security. Did you pursue that clearance?
Bagyenda: I did not because I did not know that was the policy.
Tusiime: Director security, now that you were mandated to make the employees of the bank aware of the circumstances of your mandate, is there a possibility that some banking staff especially members of management were not aware of the security conditions?
Opio-Orech: The HR should answer that question. They are the ones who are supposed to make sure that staff read the administration manual. There were several reminders to all staff to read the administration manual.
Among: Were those reminders in writing?
Opio-Orech: I need to check with HR and the EDS office to find out how many reminders they sent because in compliance they are supposed to send out those reminders periodically.
Elijah Okupa [Kasilo County]: Ms Bagyenda, were the two people we have seen in the footage your visitors?
Okupa: Were they on official duty?
Okupa: What was the official duty?
Bagyenda: MMAKS is our official lawyer and the discussions on the resolution of Crane Bank were continuing anytime of the week. The Baroda MD had a request to do with his clearance.
Okupa: Who else from BoU was in the meeting with them?
Bagyenda: I was alone.
Okupa: Do we have minutes of that meeting?
Bagyenda: I don’t have the minutes
Katuntu: Do you have any record of that meeting?
Bagyenda: The record is out but not the minutes.
Katuntu: That’s not a record.
Okupa: Director security, which officers were on duty on that Sunday? The ones that were supposed to check the visitors and did not?
Opio-Orech: We will provide the names. Some of them have been subjected to disciplinary action while others have been forwarded to management.
Katuntu: Is it normal for officers who are on leave to come and continue accessing their offices even after working hours? Is it normal for officers to access their offices, including having keys to their offices and even literally working?
Bagyenda: Director Security please [answer that].
Opio-Orech: We have different profiles. Management profiles can access the bank 24/7 even when they are on leave.
Medard Sseggona [Busiro East]: Director security, do you have a control room or centre where you observe the happenings at the security gates. If so, who mans it and who was in charge on that day in question.
From that or any other means, have you observed that there were breaches on the days in question and established who were responsible for those breaches?
Katuntu: Hon Sseggona, I think you should withdraw the first question because it touches the security apparatus of that institution.
Opio-Orech: During the investigations we observed that there were breaches and we have taken action.
Beatrice Anywar[Kitgum Municipality]: Ms Bagyenda was EDS for 35 years but does not know the security manual, can we have the administrative structure to help know the reporting channels and I would want to ask her how she was managing the bank structures yet she does not know the departmental details. I find it strange that the EDS of the bank did not know the bank’s security manual yet she worked there for 35 years.
Bagyenda: Director security has clarified that our category has 24/7 security clearance. So, I have never been stopped. For 24 hours, I can [access the bank].
Anywar: I am not asking about your movements in and out of the bank. You stated here that you do not know the security clearances where you are supposed to be checked. I want you to confirm whether you are telling the truth?
Bagyenda: I knew the checking was there and that is why I passed through the scanner. I could not enter without passing through security.
Anywar: Why did you use the emergency doors when your bags were brought in and out?
Bagyenda: Can I pass that question to the director security.
Anywar: Can I ask your bodyguard, why didn’t you have the bags you collected from the vehicle pass through the security check and why did you use an emergency door?
Juliet Adikot[Bagyenda’s bodyguard]: I don’t know why the bags were not checked. I used an emergency door because the turnstiles of the bank can’t allow the bags to pass through.
Anywar: Are you a security officer?
Anywar: How long have you worked in the bank?
Adikot: Two years.
Vicent Wobwoya [Budadiri East]: If Ms Bagyenda agrees with her bodyguard that the bags were too huge to go through the normal gates, why didn’t she empty the contents so that they are checked if at all there was no sinister motive?
Bagyenda: We have all watched the footage. The people who were carrying the bags did not open that emergency door. I did not see the people who carried the bags stopping the security from checking the bags.
Katuntu: Ms Bagyenda, as a senior staff of BoU, do you know you have an obligation to have any property going out of the bank checked. As a senior staff who has worked with BoU for 35 years?
Bagyenda: I did not breach [security protocol] and I passed through the scanner.
Sheila Mwine [Kiruhura Woman MP]: Ms Bagyenda, you told us that the items taken out of the bank were personal belongings. Why then did you return them to the bank?
Bagyenda: The things I took out were personal. The day I came back from the airport I was carrying luggage which had reading materials, documents and gifts for my staff.
Katuntu: The point is that you are due for retirement and you clear personal belongings from your office. You again carry a load full of personal belongings back to the office.
Bagyenda: I have been working in the bank for 35 years. The things I took from the bank on 10th February were not the things I brought back. I was coming from the airport. I was the chairperson of the African Banking regulators and we had a meeting in Pretoria and I had materials which I had to bring back and some of them were for my handover. I also had gifts from South Africa.
Among: Did you come straight from the airport to the office?
Okupa: You went through your home, why didn’t you leave them at home? When you look at the footage, the movement from the airport was via her home.
Bagyenda: I did not see myself coming through home in the footage.
Katuntu: We traced that car electronically and we know where it passed.
Bagyenda: I want to see the car tracking log.
Katuntu: Director security, can you give her the car tracking log?
Jennifer Mababazi: We can clearly observe that Ms Bagyenda used the advantage of the weaknesses of security. Security should tell us if they tried to check and she refused or they never did it at all. Another thing, from the footage, we saw those big bags from the airport coming in but we did not see them coming out. We don’t know where those bags are.
Bagyenda: The footage said it all and my packing [of documents] took a lot of time because of the information I had accumulated. Like I said yesterday, when a complaint came, I subjected myself to a check in my office. Because a complaint came that the people who carried bags were not checked and I said okay, a complaint has come, please check the luggage and it was done.
Katuntu: The question was that when you came from out, you came in with bags but we don’t see the bags getting out. When did you get these bags out?
Bagyenda: It was a continuous exercise of cleaning my office. When a complaint came on 16th March, I wrote to security that I would continue taking away my bags and they indeed came and checked.
Katuntu: How did you know about this complaint?
Bagyenda: I had sent them an email. I was told at the checking point by a security guard that even my security guard would be checked.
Katuntu: She says she was told by the consultant. Is it true?
Rwekikiga Asiimwe [Senior Consultant, Bank of Uganda]: I came to learn from her that we were witch-hunting her because we were looking for a search warrant to search her premises and so we could not continue because it had leaked. It came from her and not me. And I want to add that employees have an obligation as per policy. Every BoU employee shall take actions that enhance and shall desist from taking actions that compromise the security of the bank. When you are clearing out and there are many people that clear every year, you do exactly what she did after the complaint, you call people to see that what you are loading is yours and not bank property. And that is also captured in the document policy. There is no document that is supposed to leave the bank without clearance from the director security.
Regarding Ms Bagyenda’s alleged breach of BoU security protocols, the Committee resolved to further examine raw CCTV footage captured by BoU security cameras before deciding the next course of action.
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