Government through the Financial Intelligence Authority has ordered for the freezing of all bank accounts held by Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS), including those of all its staffers, SoftPower has learnt. The independent think tank on public policy held its accounts in Bank of Africa, according to Godber Tumushabe, the Associate Director at GLISS.
This directive is in connection with an ongoing CID investigation by Police into GLISS over alleged money laundering and conspiracy to commit felony. Police have accused the think tank and Action Aid Uganda, another NGO for illegally sourcing funds to support opposition political activities tied to the ongoing Age Limit amendment debate.
Subsequently, police raided and searched offices of GLISS situated at Ministers’ Village, Ntinda in Kampala, and seized equipment and financial documents to aid its investigations.
Godber Tumushabe was briefly arrested and interrogated on funding anti-government protests, charges he denied.
He has previously said that his organisation’s programmes are well known to police, and all the funding they receive is directed to doing those programmes.
On Thursday, Godber posted on the organization’s Facebook page; “I am just getting information that Bank of Uganda has issued instructions to have GLISS accounts and for all our staff frozen.”
“As a start up, most of our staff are young people just at the start of their careers. I can’t understand how their personal accounts can become an issue for the regime. This level of panic is a matter of grave concern,” he added.
He confirmed to SoftPower that the accounts have indeed been closed temporarily but criticized the decision to freeze individual accounts including his.
“I have just confirmed that all my personal accounts in Housing Finance are also frozen,” he said.
It is unclear why the investigation has expanded its focus to all employees and how long this is likely to last given the implications it could have.
“I confirmed the accounts at Bank of Africa were frozen on the instructions of the Financial Intelligence Authority. They must have also gotten a no objection from Bank of Uganda (BOU),” Tumushabe said.
While the offices were reopened since the September raid, Tumushabe told us; “The offices are open, but they literary took everything that we need to operate normally. After a full month, they have not returned anything even after requesting them for some of the materials that we need.”
A credible source revealed to Tumushabe that when ActionAid wrote to the Central Bank challenging the freezing of the account, BOU withdrew the order only for a similar order to be issued by Financial Intelligence Authority.
Set up in 2014, the Financial Intelligence Authority is mandated by the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2013 to prohibit and prevent money laundering. The Authority has powers “to make orders in relation to proceeds of crime and properties of offenders” and “to provide for international cooperation in investigations, prosecution and other legal processes of prohibiting and preventing money laundering”
A week ago, bank accounts held by Action Aid Uganda another NGO were frozen on the orders of Bank of Uganda over a similar investigation.
Similar scrutiny is likely to extend to several other NGOs operating in Uganda as government recently asked 25 other not-for-profit organisations to provide financial information to the NGO Bureau which regulates them.
According to the State Minister for Internal Affairs Obiga Kania, there is no cause for anxiety since the law provides that every year, NGOs must disclose their source of funding and what they spend it on.
Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo is on record to have once said that “the disruptions being organized by the opposition led by Besigye and funded by Action Aid and GLISS among other civil society organizations will fail.”