KAMPALA – COSASE – Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises boss, Joel Ssenyonyi –seem to be riding on the wrong side in the corridors of Parliamentary Avenue.
After the swift and comical effort that saw Minister Persis Namuganza censured – for alleged contempt of parliament, the machete appears to be swinging into the direction of the Nakawa West MP – Ssenyonyi for what insiders claim to be the reaction for ‘touching’ sensitive areas at Uganda Airlines.
But source at the Parliamentary Avenue revealed that Ssenyonyi faces severe punishment for the leakage of the probe report, which his COSASE Committee had authored on the operations of Uganda Airlines – which the Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among has declined to table before the House unless the source of the drip was established.
During the plenary sitting that she chaired on January 19, 2023, Among reiterated her earlier directive to legislators that Parliament would not entertain the leaked report unless the Leader of Opposition – LoP investigated – ascertaining how the House’s top secrets found their way into the public domain.
COSASE is one of the four Public Accounts Committees of Parliament led by the representatives of the opposition political parties. In August 2022, the Committee probed mismanagement, illegal recruitment and embezzlement, among others in Uganda Airlines following the Auditor General’s report for the Financial Year that ended on June 30, 2021.
The Committee concluded the probe on Uganda Airlines in September 2022 – forwarding its findings to the Speaker for consideration.
Ssenyonyi in retaliation accused the Speaker of setting a bad precedent by dismissing the report without concrete grounds.
But Chris Obore, the Director of Communications and Public Affairs in Parliament said the Speaker has already sealed the fate of the report after she made a formal pronouncement on the floor of the House.
During the probe, the Committee unearthed irregularities in the operations and management of the entity which included; mismanagement of 25 procurements to defraud the Government, unlawful appointment of CEO Jenifer Bamuturaki – who lacked the requisite minimal qualifications for the job.
In twists and turns of events, a copy of a letter dated August 22, 2022 written by Speaker Among leaked.
The Speaker’s letter had directed Ssenyonyi to conduct the probe of the revived Uganda Airlines ‘closed-door’ to avoid negative media publicity so as to protect the airline’s business continuity.
“While the audit process is integral in streamlining the operations of the public entities, there is a need for a careful balance between accountability and business continuity… I, therefore, guide that the Committee adopts closed-door proceedings in the inquiry into the operations of the Uganda Airlines Company Ltd,” Among concluded in the letter copied to the Prime Minister and Leader of Opposition.
According to Obore, there was nothing unusual in the Speaker guiding Ssenyonyi because Uganda Airlines was a new business that had a lot of international recognition and stakeholders; therefore, negative publicity would affect its progress.
On the same day after the Speaker’s letter, the Committee also received a separate letter from Priscilla Mirembe Serukka – the Board Chairperson of Uganda Airlines asking Parliament to lock out the media from covering the probe against the entity to safeguard against ‘bad press’ that may endanger the company’s future prospects.
Now Ssenyonyi has raised a fresh accusations against Among – alleging that she had invited some of the COSASE committee members to her office – asking them to start a censure motion against him for ‘indiscipline’ and ‘disobeying’ the Speaker’s orders.
Notably, last week, Speaker Among ordered a value-for-money audit on the Committee accusing its leadership of underperformance. She pointed out that out of 107 entities referred to the Committee by the Auditor General, they only scrutinised four including Uganda Airlines.
Reports of the Auditor General for the FY 2019/2020 revealed that the entity made a loss of Ugx104b. It recorded another loss of Ugx164b in FY 2020/2021 and again in FY 2021/2022 which ended on June 30, it recorded a loss of Ugx234b.
Uganda Airlines, with six planes, began flying in August 2019 with 12 destinations.