By Philip Wasswa
PARLIAMENT. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) never dealt directly with the Central Bank on matters relating to a chartered plane that was carrying Printed currency notes from abroad.
The clarification came in relation to questionable cargo that was found on a plane chartered to deliver pallets of printed currency notes into the country.
Meanwhile, the parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) has said it will summon all officials involved in the alleged Bank of Uganda currency saga to explain their roles and what they know about the incident.
Initial reports indicated that the chartered plane landed at Entebbe International Airport on April 27 and was cleared by the URA customs department in the presence of BoU officials, BoU security, aviation security, police, and other security agencies.
However, it was reported that instead of the expected 20 pallets, the consignment had 25 pallets. According to a statement released by the Central Bank a week ago, the anomaly was identified during the verification of the consignment. A number of Central Banks officials were arrested in the aftermath.
It has since been reported that the extra cargo belongs to different individuals and organization including businessman Charles Mbire, United Nations, USAID and Omar Mandela, the proprietor of Café Javas.
Mr Ayub Sooma, the director of Airport Security, said they did not check the cargo upon arrival since the transfer of currency has a special arrangement which is usually left to BoU officials to handle.
He explained all airports follow international regulations of checking passengers and screening their cargo to ensure that bad elements do not enter the country.
Mr Sooma, however, said the BoU cargo was not screened because it was a special consignment and thus 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,” Mr Ayub said.
However, CAA’s Director for Safety, Security and Economic Regulations Eng. Ronny Barongo told a committee of parliament on Thursday that the clearance for the flight in question was sought by Astral Aviation Services of Kenya indicating that the plane was carrying printed materials to Uganda.
Eng Barongo and other CAA officials were appearing before Parliament’s Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises Committee (COSASE) to respond to a number of audit queries raised against the authority this morning.
During the engagement, Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda asked CAA what its role was in the procurement process amid reports that the Authority’s officials conspired to clear private cargo on the BoU chartered plane.
Efforts by the CAA Director-General Dr Mpango Kakuba to plead with the committee to avoid discussing the matter were futile. He had argued that it is against the subjudice rule to discuss a matter that is being investigated. But his argument was rejected on account that the matter is not yet before court.
He later told the committee that no official of CAA had been summoned for interrogation over the BoU chartered plane. However, he asked the Director Airports Eng. Ayub Sooma to explain issues pertaining to clearance of cargo.
Eng. Sooma said that CAA has no role in currency cargo verification and supply chain processes by the Central Bank since the only requirement is a notification about any shipment that is expected in the country. He added that all currency verifications are done at the Central Bank.
Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko insisted that CAA explains to the committee whether it knew what the BoU chartered plane was carrying.
But the Director-General maintained that CAA does not inspect what the Central Bank brings into the country.
Samia-Bugwe North MP Gideon Onyango noted that the different statements from government entities were sending a wrong signal.