• Payment Systems

Payment Systems in Uganda

The payment systems in Uganda are classified into three broad areas:

a)    Systems operated by the Bank of Uganda

(i)    Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS )

High value and time critical payment transactions are processed by the Uganda National Interbank Settlement (UNIS) System.
UNIS is an advanced interbank electronic payment system which facilitates safe, secure and real-time transmission of high value funds between accounts in different financial institutions. It was implemented in February 2005 and has undergone several upgrades to meet the ever changing payments systems requirements. The UNIS System participation is open to Banks and non-banks. Currently there are twenty seven (27) registered UNIS System participants.
The system has improved efficiency in payment systems by mitigating settlement risk and eradicating time lag for settling high value and time critical payments. They include; clearing house positions, interbank transfers, government securities and money market transactions. Turnaround time for a transaction is instantaneous.

RTGS also supports that East African Payment Systems (EAPS) and the Regional Payments and Settlement Systems (REPSS) The EAPS facilitate transactions across the East African Community (EAC) and allows transfer of value in the various EAC currencies. REPSS supports the transfer of value across the Common Market for the East and Southern Africa (COMESA). The settlement is currently done in United States Dollars and the Euro.

(ii)    Automated Clearing House (ACH) System

On 20th April 2018 Bank of Uganda went live with a new ACH provided by Montran Corporation. The ACH Network is a batch processing system in which participants present transactions in batches for processing in the morning and afternoon sessions. The new ACH involved migration to ISO 20022 standard clearing messages and it possesses the cheque truncation capability. The system processes both debit and credit EFTs and cheques in five currencies of UGX, USD, EUR, GBP and KES. The system negated the need for participants to congregate at a single venue to exchange instruments; the cheque truncation functionality enables participants to present cheques electronically as digital images.
The key features of the ACH are;

a.   ACH payment entry and processing using standard message formats with or without image records i.e. ISO 20022, X9, SWIFT XML, bulk payment and country specific message formats.
b.    Instant Funds 24/7 clearing with flexible settlement
c.    Cheque truncation and data capture from cheques at point of presentment, including image capture.
d.    Settlement of net positions in one or more sessions per day at preā€specified times set by the ACH operator.
e.    Supports Pre-funded Netting, Protected Netting via Pooled funds, or Open netting arrangements.
f.    Capability to interface directly, or via SWIFT, to RTGS and CSD systems for collateral provisioning and final settlement.
g.    Integration with the Mandate Management, Dispute Management and AML modules
h.    Capability to carry over queues and balances between intraday clearing cycles.
i.    Real-time monitoring, including - but not limited to - messages, count and volumes of payments in sessions or daily totals, actual and projected positions, account balances for both the ACH operator and participating institutions
j.    Complete monitoring of projected positions available to both the ACH operator and Participants.
k.    Operational reliability with backup and contingency arrangements.
l.    Maintenance of a statistical database with query and reporting facilities, including charts.
m.    Secure encrypted, digitally signed, interactive communication for system monitoring and file exchange.
n.    ACH file submission and payment data entry modules.
o.    Calculating and requesting the required collateral in anticipation of a settlement session.
p.    Capability to suspend payments.
q.    Processing high priority payments or VIP cheques in real time mode with continuous settlement.
r.    Store and forward function to allow submission of files overnight, to optimize network bandwidth usage.
s.    A multi-currency system.
t.    A standard browser based "thin client" user interface.
u.    Interoperability through the use of standardized Java API (JDBC, JMS, JTA, JCA), Interface adapters, and SOA integration.

The key benefits are given below

1.    The ACH has a cheque truncation module which has:

a)    Improved cheque processing efficiency: The main feature of cheque truncation is that the physical movement of the cheque is stopped and the images of cheques are transmitted electronically thereby speeding up the process of cheque clearance and settlement between banks. This obviously means quicker clearance, shorter clearing cycle and speedier credit of the amount to the beneficiaries' account. Customers can even get credit same day. The clearing cycle has been reduced to two days for both local and upcountry cheque clearing which were previously three and seven respectively.
b)    Reduced the risk and chance of fraud. Cheque truncation cuts fraud as technology itself is deployed to police the process. The technology makes some cheque fraud techniques quite ineffective. Fraudsters, who take advantage of both the float period and manual stages of cheque handling to swindle banks, find it hard to infiltrate a digitized system. In essence, some crimes like cheque kiting, alterations and forgery are reduced in the cheque truncation mechanism. Also, the general security environment is boosted with the power of the specialized digital scanners, electronic signatures, encryption and on-line auditing.
c)    Lowered cheque handling costs.

(i)    No or minimal courier costs as cheques are digitized at the branch where they are deposited
(ii)    Cost of transporting participants' staff to the clearing house to deliver and pick cheques.
(iii)    Staff can be deployed to do other work other than attending the clearing house.

2.    The whole country is on a single clearing platform as opposed to the way clearing was being conducted previously. The whole process of clearing is automated making it faster, safer, efficient and convenient.
3.    The ACH is based on ISO20022 message type which has facilitated compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering and terrorism Financing Act due to enhanced remittance information the messages are capable of transmitting.
4.    The ACH allows commercial banks to monitor the progress of file processing enabling real-time interventions where necessary. The system enables early notification of the statuses of the files presented for clearing and the settlement position to commercial banks enabling better liquidity management.

5. The ACH is fully integrated with all other system that support clearing therefore reducing the time to complete the clearing cycle of instrument presentation, settlement, returning as well as well access to value by customers, resulting in better customer service.
The ACH Network is at the center of commerce  and public expenditure in Uganda moving money and information from one bank account to another through cheques, credit and debit transactions. The payments made through the ACH may be recurring or one-time payments; government, consumer and business to business transactions plus payment related information. Each year the ACH moves huge volumes and values of electronic financial transactions and information. As such, the ACH is one of the largest, safest and most reliable payment systems, in Uganda.

(iii)    Central Securities Depository (CSD)

The Central Securities Depository (CSD) is a system that electronically handles transactions related to government securities and these include:
•    Account opening
•    Auctions
•    Secondary Market trades
•    Coupon Payments
•    Redemptions
•    Repos
•    Bank Borrowing (Lombard)
•    Rediscounts
•    Client support activities including provision of investor statements
The National payments systems is in charge of the administration and general availability of the system as well as  user authentication while the actual CSD operations are carried out by the Financial Markets and  Banking departments of the central bank

b)    Payment services provided by the Commercial Banks

•    CSD by Uganda Securities Exchange
•    Internet Banking
•    E-money providers like Mobile money telecommunication companies
•    ATMs Provided by Commercial Banks
•    POS provided by commercial banks and merchants

c)     Private sector

•    E-money providers like Mobile money telecommunication companies
•    Single purpose stored value cards
•    ecommerce
•    Aggregators/ integrators
•    Remittance companies like western union