KAMPALA – The outcome of an investigation by Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises – COSASE on the operations of Uganda National Airlines Company Limited – UACL has been long awaited but the report remains concealed.
Between August and September, 2022- the Committee under the chairmanship of Joel Ssenyonyi -the Nakawa West Constituency representative probed the Airlines after a report of the Auditor General – AG for FY2020/21 pointed out financial and human resource mismanagement.
Irregularities cited in the report included corruption and abuse of office; lack of job grades; non-existent strategic plan; poor management of contract files; and mismanagement of 25 procurements to defraud the Government.
During the month-long probe, the Committee pinned the then newly appointed Airline’s CEO, Jenifer Bamuturaki, and other senior officers for lack of integrity and prerequisite qualifications to successfully steer the operations of the national flagship and cargo carrier.
Ssenyonyi said for some time now, several people have been asking him what happened to the Uganda Airlines report. He added that in September 2022, the report was submitted to the Speaker and the Clerk.
“All this while, Speaker (Anita) Among has been saying she is studying the report and that she will give a feedback,” exclaimed Ssenyonyi.
He added that he has seen the energy used to censure Francis Zaake-the Mityana Municipality MP and now junior Lands Minister, Persis Namuganza over largely personal issues and wished similar energy was used on committee reports.
“We shall keep exposing the rot in government entities, even if reports are not tabled. In 2023, we are taking the exposing to another level,” fumed Ssenyonyi.
It should be recalled that Speaker Among in her communication to the House during the plenary of November 9, demanded to know who leaked the Ssenyonyi-led Committee report to the media in violation of Rule 216 (1) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament.
One of the Committee members who spoke on condition of anonymity argued that the Speaker used her authority to frustrate the report, which implicated Bamuturaki.
“The probe was open-ended, and Among is simply using her power to frustrate it,” said the legislator.
Early in the year, four Staff of Parliament were terminated for alleged breaching of oaths of allegiance and secrecy after they were accused of leaking official documents relating to the purchase of ceremonial vehicles for Among and her deputy, Thomas Tayebwa, that cost the taxpayers a whopping Ugx2.88b.
While making reference to the rampant cases of corruption in the country and attempts to fight the vice, Joyce Bagaala Ntwata- the Mityana District Woman representative noted that Uganda was losing the fight against corruption due to connivance in public offices.
It is important to note that in the probe on the operations of Uganda Airlines, key witnesses included former Airline’s CEO, Conwell Muleya, who cited anomalies in the management of the entity. For instance, Muleya faulted his successor Bamuturaki for conflict of interest and pervasive influence peddling. The testimony was corroborated by the Airline’s former Board Chairperson, Perez Godfrey Ahabwe who cited political interferences among others.
The Board would later discover that Bamuturaki had a close relationship with Mark Arnold Odeke, the CEO of Abbaverta Group– a Kenyan-based promotions and advertising agency that attempted to charge the Airlines Ugx1.538b in advertising and promotional services instead of Ugx648m – to defraud Ugx874m in an inflated figure.
The Ssenyonyi Committee would later discover that Bamuturaki awarded an apparently inflated Ugx778.7m service contract to Abbavarter Group to feed 600 guests during a ceremony to receive two newly acquired Bombardier CRJ900 aircrafts at the Entebbe on April 23, 2021. Averagely, each guest consumed foodstuff equivalent to at least Ugx1.3m.
The MPs also discovered that Bamuturaki’s CEO position was erroneously ring-fenced, even after 40 applicants had applied for the same after the entity had incurred Ugx95m in the hunting process to recruit a substantive candidate.
Further, the Auditor General revealed that despite lack of a salary structure, top managers, especially from the Captain category employees were variably earning Ugx65.2m, Ugx63.4m, Ugx62.6m, Ugx54.1m and Ugx38.2m among others with the CEO earning Ugx87m, monthly.
CEO Bamuturaki, was implicated for receipt of $12,750 (about Ugx48.6m) as per diem for foreign trips to the Uganda Airlines’ offices in Johannesburg (South Africa); Kinshasa in DR Congo, Juba in South Sudan, Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, Mogadishu in Somalia, Zanzibar, Burundi and Nairobi in the neighbouring Kenyan but she apparently never travelled nor refunded the money. She has since denied any wrong transactions.
It also emerged during the probe that Bamuturaki, without the knowledge of the Company Secretary, Bisereko Kyomuhendo, unlawfully contracted the Independent Online Journalists Association-Uganda led by Andrew Irumba, a blogger and CEO of online publication – TheSpy Uganda up to a tune of Ugx156m to counter bad publicity against the Airlines.
In the FY 2019/2020, the Airlines made a loss of Ugx104b, and in the subsequent FY 2020/2021, the entity recorded another loss of Ugx164 b whereas, in the FY 2021/2022 that ended on June 3, the report shows that it has made yet another record loss of Ugx234b.
Uganda Airlines is the flag carrier and the company is a revival of the older Uganda Airlines, which operated from 1977 until 2001. The current carrier, with a fleet of six, began flying in August 2019 with 12 destinations.
Additional reporting by URN