Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) officials appeared before Parliament yesterday and were questioned about what has come to be termed as the “BoU Money Heist” by sections of the public.
The CAA officials failed to give satisfying answers to questions put before them by members of Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) in relation to mishandling of the cargo plane which was chartered by Bank of Uganda (BoU) to exclusively bring in newly printed currency notes, but it turned up with more cargo.
Some sections of the public believe it was authentic but unauthorised currency notes that BoU officials had printed for their own benefit. The figure has been put at Shs90 billion. However, Government Spokesman Ofwono Opondo maintains the excess cargo was not cash but goods belonging to several businessmen and UN agencies. His statements heavily contradict Police Spokesman Fred Enanga who said they were investigating arrested BoU officials in relation to excess printed cash.
Ronald Barongo, the CAA director for Safety and Security, told COSASE that they received an application from an agent in Kenya to grant the chartered plane permission to land at Entebbe airport with printed material, and that CAA was not aware of the private cargo that was on the plane and what it contained.
“It’s true that we received an application to allow in a flight with printed material belonging to BoU but we did not know about extra consignment since it was not included in the application,” Barongo said.
The director of Airport Security, Sooma Ayub, said the cargo was not checked upon arrival because the transfer of currency has a special arrangement that is left to only BoU officials to handle. This is why they cannot tell what was inside.
“The currency cargo has its special arrangement, which starts and ends in Bank of Uganda. This particular cargo has special escorts who go straight to the airport with their bullion van to pick the money, so we had less involvement in this,” he said.
Ibrahim Kasozi, the deputy chairperson of COSASE asked about the country’s safety due to the fact that some cargo can pass through airport security unchecked under the name of Bank of Uganda. This could be exploited by criminals to sneak narcotics, bombs and other dangerous materials into the country.
CAA managing director, David Kakuba, said they are not the only agency involved in clearing goods and passengers at the airport, and that Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) customs officials clear certain cargo.
Parliament is now set to summon all officials involved in saga including customs and BoU.
The BoU saga unfolded last week when State House Anti-corruption Unit and police arrested several senior BoU officials and questioned officials from the Customs Department, airport police officers and CAA staff after a chartered plane carrying Uganda currency arrived with excess cargo.
The arrests happened after BoU Governor Tumusiime-Mutebile petitioned the President to intervene in the matter.
The consignment of Uganda currency at Entebbe International Airport was delivered by a chartered UK-based KUEHNE +NAGEL cargo plane on April 27. Police and State House Anti -Corruption Unit are carrying out a joint investigation into the incident.