Recently, one of our country’s oldest professional bodies, the 55 year-old Uganda Journalists Association, held elections and a peaceful handover from the outgoing president to the next.
But there was nothing to handover – not even a paragraph of association records nor a bank statement. So they asked around for an empty file cover and the handover was duly photographed for posterity.
At next year’s handover, the file will at least contain a photo of two smiling men exchanging nothing.
More recently, Minister of Trade Amelia Kyambadde wrote to the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises seeking its help to revive the Uganda Co-operative Bank.
Naturally, the committee first needed to know why the bank had been closed in the first place before thinking about reviving it. The members approached Bank of Uganda for a report on the Co-operative Bank’s closure about 20 years ago. There was no report.
The committee members said, wait a minute, Bank of Uganda has been closing commercial banks since 1993 at an average of one bank every three and a half years, can we have a look at the reports detailing why the banks were closed down?
Now hold onto your chair before you read the next sentence. The committee found there is no report on any of the closed banks!
I can only advise Uganda’s central bankers to board a bus to the Coast, find an old Swahili trader and ask him to explain the phrase “Mali bila daftari hupotea bila habari” (money without records disappears without trace).
The latest bank to be closed was Crane Bank and the process of shutting it down cost taxpayers $120 million. It is said even that expense was illegal because it did not follow the guidelines on how and how much to spend to safeguard depositors’ money.
It is not known how much was spent in closing the other banks, the first of which was the Buganda kingdom-aligned Teefe (ironically meaning, “It won’t die”) Bank and the Islamic-aligned Greenland Bank, which revolutionised banking in Uganda the way Equity Bank did in Kenya and beyond by pursuing inclusion of the lower classes who used to be frowned upon by traditional bankers.
Recently, a row erupted between the judiciary and the judicial commission of inquiry into land matters in Uganda. The commission chairperson charged that judicial officers have been active agents in land grabbing and criminal mass evictions of people from land they have occupied for generations.
Land matters in Uganda are such a mess that land is still being acquired by military conquest as of old. Recently, hundreds of prime waterfront acres on Lake Victoria in eastern Kampala were acquired from our weak government by people who would hire 20-year-old “army veterans” – from a war that ended 30 years ago – to forcibly occupy plots and block police action as the judiciary and land registry completed the fraudulent documentation.
It is said a “veteran” would get paid some $300 for an acre.
If you ever want to write a thesis on institutional decay, you know where to collect your data.