KAMPALA, Uganda: Days after Bank of Uganda (BOU) took to litigation accusing tycoon Sudhir Ruparelia of ‘taking’ Shs400bn out of his former Crane Bank (CB), a presidential aide, Tamale Mirundi has stepped forward and piled all the culpability for CB’s collapse on the central bank’s governor Prof. Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile himself.
“Mutebile is incompetent. That man should have resigned already. As a matter of fact, he should surrender self to the nearest police station for questioning,” Mirundi demands.
But why is this thin-pencil veteran journalist holding the central bank governor culpable in regard to the collapse of CB? And he answers, “His work as governor involves supervising commercial banks. But how many have collapsed under his very nose? Is it only CB that has buckled under his reign as governor of the central bank?
Mirundi also points out Justine Bagyenda, the central bank chief in charge of supervising commercial banks, as another culprit besides her superior, Mutebile.
“Why has Mutebile been reluctant when it comes to charging his staff (read Bagyenda) in the collapse of CB? Is it because he is aware that doing so would be counterproductive?” Mirundi quips in an interview he had on several local FM radio stations.
The financial institutions which Mirundi is apparently referring to include Global Trust Bank, Imperial bank, as well as National Bank of Commerce and lately CB which have gone under since January 1, 2001 when the thickly-bearded Mutebile took charge of BOU.
He likens Mutebile to a reckless doctor who jostles to perform an autopsy on a dead person whom he had neglected to treat earlier. “It would be injudicious to entrust performance of a postmortem on a dead body to a doctor who has caused the death in the first place.” He argues in reference to Mutebile’s eagerness to prosecute Sudhir for the collapse of CB, which he was obliged to supervise and detect the fate.
Blew CB’s Trumpet
Developing his case further, Mirundi contends how Mutebile, who had always extolled CB as one of the financially sound commercial banks in Uganda could not have been the same man to shut it down and later prosecute its owner for running it down. “What was making Mutebile blow CB’s trumpet by calling it a strong bank only to wake up later and close it?” Mirundi jibes.
Relatedly, the internationally acclaimed Forbes magazine and BOU used to out reports after reports naming CB the bank of the year and Mutebile never at any one such occasion, came forward to dispute such flowery reports.
Drawing from his boss President Yoweri Museveni‘s past experience when the Head of State supposedly went shopping for a loan for one of his relatives and Stanbic bank bounced him (Museveni). He added how it took CB just a few minutes to sort out the issue.
He said it took a call from the president to Sudhir and the issue was settled in a matter of minutes. “Is it not ironical that a bank such as CB which was able to bail out the Head of State when other banks couldn’t can collapse just like that?”
Mirundi also challenges Mutebile to explain to the country why the central bank entrusted the ‘incompetent’ Sudhir with the National Bank of Commerce (NBC) when the latter ran short of capital and was accordingly closed down.
The no-nonsense presidential aide then drops the bombshell: “Don’t be deceived, Mutebile closure of CB was an action of revenge against Sudhir who had earlier taken over the Bakiga formerly owned National Bank of Commerce (NBC).”
Whether closing CB was an act of revenge, we cannot tell with certainty. But we know Mutebile was one of the shareholders in NBC. He also hails from Kigezi, the land of Bakiga, one of the ethnic tribes of Uganda.
We also know that CB’s shareholders, notably Sudhir, started a frantic search for strategic investors to recapitalize the financial institution, but such efforts fell through after rumors of CB’s impending continued to ring the air.
It should be added for emphasis and for the interest of those who have forgotten or for starters, when reports of the impending closure of CB first came up, Mutebile himself authored a statement dispelling such talk.
“What you are reading and hearing from some quarters is not true,” Mutebile stated as he gave CB a clean bill of health. The governor would a few days later shoot himself in the arm: by closing CB for, “being a financially incapacitated bank.”
Reading through the BOU’s case against Sudhir one would be excused to conclude that what the central bank managers are doing is trying to secure the door after the burglar has bolted. A careful mind cannot also fail to see glaring admissions of incompetence on part of BOU as far as far supervising commercial banks is concerned.
For purposes of illustration, BOU tells court how Sudhir had for long been the lone shareholder of CB. BOU also points out how Sudhir had created fake shareholders to whom he would pay dividends that ended up on accounts owned by companies related to the tycoon or relatives.
That said and done, one would then ask what made BOU fail to detect beforehand whatever complaint it is communicating to court now , if at all the allegations are true, and only woke up to make the claims after the collapse of CB?
But above all, why is BOU going for only Sudhir and Meera Investments, well aware that he was merely a promoter of CB and not one of the professional people at the ill-fated bank? This is not to say that the man is entirely blameless, if at all he is blameless remembering that he cannot be condemned unheard, but the professional people at CB must also have made mistakes or omitted to do things they were supposed to do as professionals, especially the top managers to deserve a day in the dock.