Ten economists and financial experts are in the lead for appointment as the next Bank of Uganda (BoU) governor amid frantic below-the-surface lobbying for the top job, Daily Monitor has learned.
Sources familiar with the matter intimated to this newspaper that the candidates were vetted by security a few months ago and the names were forwarded to President Museveni to make the pick.
However, nine months after the passing of the previous officeholder, Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, the President is quiet about the choice of the next governor.
Tumusiime-Mutebile, who died on January 23, held the position for slightly over two decades.
The prerogative for appointment of the central bank governor and their deputy, according to the Bank of Uganda (BoU) Act, lies with the President on the advice of the Cabinet. The law is, however, silent on the timeline[s] within which the appointment is to be made.
Mr. Henry Musasizi, the Junior Minister of Finance (General Duties), told Daily Monitor last week that there is no crisis at the central bank occasioned by the delayed appointment of the governor.
“The bank is well. There is a Board, there is a management team and they are working well. Everything is working well,” he said.
The BoU Act designates the governor and their deputy, respectively, as chairperson and deputy chairperson of the central bank board which provides oversight. The Deputy Governor, Mr. Michael Atingi-Ago, has been holding forte for both positions.
Top on the shortlist is Mr. Damoni Kitabire, a macroeconomic and development consultant, who until August 2020 was the African Development Bank (AfDB) country manager for Zambia. Currently, he is a consultant and serves as a non-executive director of Stanbic Bank.
Mr. Kitabire worked for the Ministry of Finance from the 1980s until 1999. He then joined the International Monetary Fund and later returned to the Ministry of Finance for a short spell in 2006 from where he joined AfDB in 2007.
Also on the shortlist are former Makerere University economics lecturer turned consultant on economic transformation, Prof Augustus Nuwagaba; Dr. Atingi-Ago; and the former BoU assistant director for statistics, Dr. Francsis Leni Anguyo, who currently works as a principal research economist at AfDB.
Other frontrunners are former Uganda Securities Exchange Ltd chief executive officer Simon Rutega; BoU director for research and policy Adam Mugume; Prof Victor Murinde who currently serves as the director for global finance at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies; the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) managing director, Mr Richard Byarugaba; former Finance minister, Dr Ezra Suruma; and the former Secretary to Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi who is also the permanent secretary of the Office of the Prime Minister.
The delayed naming of a substantive governor has set tongues wagging as the country contends with macroeconomic instabilities including the growing embers of inflation precipitated by the slow recovery from the recent Covid-19-induced lockdowns and the Russo-Ukrainian war.
The central bank warned in June of tighter monetary conditions on account of slowed economic growth between 4.5 percent and five percent this year, lower than previous projections of 5.5 percent to six percent growth rate, on account of weaker external demand coupled with surging economic prices and the resultant high domestic inflation.
The Uganda Revenue Authority said revenue collection is improving despite the despair of slow economic growth and soaring debt. The parliamentary Committee on National Economy, which scrutinizes the Executive’s loan requests, will be starting today look into the request to borrow Shs1.7 trillion from local banks, which has remained a matter of concern for it leaves out the public sector.
For the past nine months Dr Atingi-Ago, as acting governor and working closely with the cash-strapped Treasury, has attempted to steady the central bank ship rocked by this macroeconomic turbulence locally amid a global economic downturn.
During the first quarter of the current financial year, the government struggled to find the cash to meet many of its statutory obligations including payment of civil servants on its payroll. The position improved slightly during the second quarter releases, but the government is not yet out of the woods.
Sources also hinted on two possibilities of either elevating Dr Atingi-Ago as substantive governor and a new deputy appointed or appointing a new governor. Dr Atingi-Ego was named in the position three months after the exit of Dr Louis Kasekende who had served out his two terms of five years contract.
While it is difficult to say who will be appointed to head the central bank, one of the known facts is that any probable candidate has to be well-regarded by the Bretton Woods institutions—the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.