Inside MTN Mobile Money Saga in Uganda
Monday, March 16, 2015
Mobile money services in Uganda are coming under scrutiny and what is emerging is troubling. At the centre of the saga in which President Yoweri Museveni is personally involved, is Uganda’s biggest telecom operator, MTN, which is battling several allegations of fraud, and suits and counter suits in the courts.
Even the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) says it was kept in the dark but the cases and allegations have exposed some details that have interested it to attempt to recover sales tax on some Shs14 billion worth of airtime sales. MTN apparently did not pay tax because the transactions were made on mobile money.
Museveni has deployed his elite Presidential Guard Brigade forces to guard key figures in some of the cases after it emerged that there were attempts to use assassins to silence them. One of the targets, Richard Mwami, is a former head of MTN’s Mobile Money department.
He told The Independent that on the night of November 26, 2014, three hooded attackers jumped the fence of his home in the upmarket Muyenga neighbourhood with intention to kill him. One of the attackers, armed with a gun, climbed up to the balcony of Mwami’s bedroom on the second floor.
Mwami said: “We heard a loud bang and when I went to check, I saw him on the balcony. I grabbed him and in the scuffle, his gun fell to the ground. He fled and they all jumped over the fence and got away in a waiting car”. Mwami says the attackers fled when an alarm went off.
Mwami says he blew the whistle at MTN after he became suspicious when several staff from the MTN Mobile Money and IT resigned one after the other in November 2011. He alerted his bosses and started ferreting around. His finding led him to meet with President Museveni. After hearing his story, the president offered him guards, but Mwami rejected them.