In Uganda, the top management of the National Airlines are being taken to the courts of law because of mismanagement of the new company:

12 August, 2021

 

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Then Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda addresses guests after receiving the second Uganda Airlines Airbus A330-800neo in February at Entebbe International Airport. Photo/Paul Adude

President Museveni has ordered for the dissolution of the board of directors of the national carrier, Uganda Airlines, following an investigation that revealed widespread corruption, collusion and mismanagement.  

 In what sources describe as “a major surgical operation”, the President has ordered Works and Transport Minister, Gen Edward Katumba Wamala, to dissolve the board of directors and consider prosecuting Uganda Airlines officials he accuses of indulging in corrupt practices such as pocketing bribes and mismanaging the national carrier like personal property.

 The presidential directive is likely to spotlight the role in the saga of Uganda Airlines board chairperson Perez Ahabwe, who was a junior cabinet minister from 2009 to 2011. It is also likely to raise questions about the competence and integrity of Benon Kajuna, the director of transport at the Ministry of Works and Transport, who was the lead government representative on the Uganda Airlines board. Several months after revelations of the rot in Uganda Airlines and his possible role in them, Mr Kajuna remains in his position and continues to oversee the operations of the national carrier on behalf of the ministry.

 The President has instructed Gen Katumba and other relevant government authorities to interdict all suspended Uganda Airlines managers and hand them over to the Inspector General of Government (IGG) for possible prosecution. 

 “All disciplinary, dismissals, termination of contracts, prosecutions and interdiction should be carried out expeditiously and following legal procedures,” the President wrote last month in a letter seen by Daily Monitor. “All implicated officers should be referred to the IGG for prosecution and possible recovery of public funds.”   

 In the interim, the President directed that the permanent secretaries of the ministries of Works and Transport, as well of Finance, should handle matters of Uganda Airlines until advised otherwise.

A number of Uganda Airlines officials have been accused of extorting money from job applicants, bungling procurement contracts, recruiting relatives, friends and church members across the network, maintaining ghost workers on the airline’s payroll and giving jobs to unqualified pilots at the expense of the safety of passengers.  

 In trying to sanitise Uganda Airlines, the President ordered for a review of all contracts of the airline of both monetary and non-monetary value including catering services, fuel, ground handling, uniforms, aircraft spare parts, consumables, systems etc., and ordered for changes in order for the airline’s procedures to comply with the procedures of the Public Procurement and Disposal Authority guidelines.

 The President has also directed Gen Katumba to headhunt a commercial director, preferably an expatriate with international experience within Africa and, if possible, globally. His first assignment will be to restructure the commercial department of Uganda Airlines and align the business arm of the national carrier to the standard of a long-haul network operation.   

Investigators have also implicated Uganda Airlines officials in fast-tracking pilots qualified to fly the smaller CRJ aircraft to training to fly the much larger and more complex Airbus jetliners without the required hours. In what the report flagged as a major breach, an accountable manager approved pilots with less than 500 flying hours to attend Airbus training, creating a major breach of policy and potentially risking passenger safety.

 The President has been told that in addition to this glitch undermining aircraft and passenger safety, “this kind of gesture in the name of building local capacity will eventually attract higher insurance premiums.”  

 In his letter to the Works and Transport minister, the President observed that the current Uganda Airlines organisational structure is marred by disorganisation, improper staffing, duplication of roles and structural gaps in responsibilities, work processes, accountability and impedes organisational development.

 For the Airline to develop capacity for a global operation, the President has directed Gen Katumba to ensure that the current structure is updated to add strategy development, performance analysis, and proper coordination as well as profiling of manpower to improve and drive Key Performance Indicator-based performance management.

Jobs at risk

All staff (except those that have already undertaken KPI) are going to be subjected to competence-based reassessment/re-interviews to ascertain whether they are the right profiles for the jobs they hold. The President has directed Human Resources department of Works docket as well as the acting team at Uganda Airlines to handle the exercise with a view of retaining only qualified and experienced employees.  

 The president has listed a total of 14 grounds against six board members led by former Minister Prerez Ahabwe, Benon Kajuna, Godfrey Ssemugooma, Catherine Asinde Poran, Charles Hamya and Rehema Mutazindwa.

 The board members have been accused of incompetence, ignoring security vetting, perpetuating corruption in recruitment, grounding the two airbuses for eight months [December 2020 and January 2021], collusion with management, mismanaging contracts and micromanaging the institution and sloppiness.

 Mr Kajuna, who represents government interests on the Board, continues to supervise Uganda Airlines as Director of Transport at the Ministry.

 Other officials on the management team are; Cornwell Muleya, the chief executive officer whom the President according to sources holds personally responsible for the mismanagement and financial impropriety in the Airline. For President’s investigations, he observed numerous gaps that required his attention on errant staff under his direct supervision. The President has directed that he shows cause why disciplinary action against him shouldn’t be taken. 

 The President also accuses Mr Muleya of failure to curb corruption of the errant officials such as Paul Turacacysenga (director finance), Joseph Ssebowa (HRmanager), Moses Wangalwa (Procurement manager), Deo Nyanzi (Sales and marketing manager), Roger Wamara (Commercial director), Andrew Tumusiime (Senior administration manager), Michael Kaliisa (Quality manager), Bruno Oringi (Safety Manager),Harvey Kalama (Ground Operationa Manager), Kenneth Kiyemba (First Officer),Alex Kakooza (First Officer) and Juliet Otage Odur (Crew Training Manager)

 Other officials named in the auditor’s report are Moses Wangawa and Tom Gidudu. The President has accused the duo from procurement of messing up a good project and their actions have baffled him.

 In the procurement deals, State House auditors as well as officials from PPDA found causes of fraud and forgery, falsification of documents, best evaluated bidders presenting forged tax clearance certificates; poor record keeping, poor planning, unfair evaluation, unjustified use of direct procurement, missing payment records, contracts signed against expired bids and irregular procurements.  

 Sources at Uganda Airlines told this newspaper that the investigators found evidence implicating officials in the training of pilots that failed simulator training. For instance, a one Alex Kakooza failed his simulators twice but was still rostered to fly at the expense of safety of passengers.  The President was told that Kakooza was left on the payroll and given a third chance to redo his self-sponsored simulator training.

”Is this normal is aviation?” The President asked.

 For fear that small transgressions at Uganda Airlines might lead to disastrous future consequences, Mr Museveni explained that he proactively took action by removing suspected individuals to pave way for investigations.

 Following the suspension of a number of managers and subsequently the Board of Directors from the Airline, preliminary investigations were carried out by a team of from State House. The President has now used audit findings to consider it necessary to raise the issue of disciplinary action against board members and managers.       

 Although the president had directed that the investigations and prosecution of all the culprits be concluded without any form of collusion or delays before July 30, it emerged yesterday that the President’s letter of July 17 had not yet reached the IGG’s office. It’s not clear why the letter delayed to reach the IGG’s office.  

Reactions

The IGG spokesperson, Ms Munira Ali, last evening said: “The last time I checked, we didn’t have that complaint. There is a person who called us sometime back on July 22 and he was asking the same thing but we didn’t have anything. Give me time I crosscheck and get back to you.”

 She cross-checked with the registry team and other officials at the inspectorate and called Daily Monitor to say: “We don’t have it.”

 Works spokesperson Susan Kataike last evening confirmed investigations into corruption allegations involving suspended Uganda Airlines officials, and reiterated that the officials she didn’t name had been written to defend themselves.

  “The development is; you know when those guys [Uganda Airlines officials] it was to pave way for an in investigation as the President had directed, so the investigation has reached a point where now, they have been written do to defend themselves in regard to the issues. So it’s really basically that,” Ms Kataike said.

 “It’s now about them responding to the issues raised from investigations and then conclusion will be drawn after. That’s the position as far as that matter is concerned.”  

 She added: “Works is a shareholder in Uganda Airlines. Ours is an oversight role. We are not going to take over their duties. The senior managers were suspended andtheir junior took over their roles in acting capacities as investigations go on. We are now filling the vacant positions and the Uganda Airlines continues to operate. It’s just that there are no senior managers and the board.”

 When contacted the suspended Mr Ahabwe, the Uganda Airlines board chairman at 3:31p.m. to explain the cocktail of corruption and mismanagement accusations in the President’s letter to Gen Katumba, he said he was in a meeting somewhere and promised to call later. However, by press time Mr Ahabwe had not yet responded.

 Ms Doreen Mulindwa Nambatya, the head of marketing at Uganda Airlines, said she could not comment about the allegations of corruption and mismanagement and referred Daily Monitor to a lady she identified as Ms Santa, the assistant to now suspended chief executive officer of the national carrier.  

READ: Did Museveni sail a clay boat to launch Uganda Airlines?

 When issues were put to her she said: “Sorry I have no idea about what you are saying.”

She later sent a text clarifying why she was unable to explain the allegations against the board and the management: “I am sorry am not authorised to discuss matters of the company with the press.”

Previous fights

 Before the President intervened and suspended the board and senior managers, former State Minister for Transport, Ms Joy Kabatsi, had at some point threatened to suspend the chairman board of directors of Uganda Airlines over 12 pertinent issues she said were affecting the national carrier.

 Ms Kabatsi in her April 26 communication to Mr Ahawe listed a cocktail of issues that arose in a meeting the former board chairman allegedly refused to attend

 The President accuses of Mr Ahabwe of micromanaging Uganda Airlines. Mr Museveni told GenKatumba that Mr Ahabwe wanted a personal office at airline commercial premises symbolising interference with the day today management function.

 “When that didn’t work, he forced the airline to purchase him a vehicle that so beautifully bypassed normal procurement procedures and not easily detected in the Airline financial statement,” the President’s letter reads.

 Some of the issues raised are why the certification of the bombardier CRJ 900 aircraft has never been concluded, lack of the timeline for certification of the A 330-800 Neo aircraft, and non-utilised ground handling equipment that was purchased four months ago.

 “Ground handling equipment was purchased and has not been utilised for four months, yet the airline is paying ground rent and storage charges. Did we get value for money? The prices of the equipment are questionable. What is the plan for the airline to start self-handling?”  Ms Kabatsi demanded.

Other queries

The minister also demanded to know why there was lack of capacity by heads of department and their technical staff to develop manuals that are satisfactory to Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, and what measures are being taken to address the capacity deficiency.

Background

After nearly two decades in limbo, in June 2016, President Museveni announced that Uganda Airlines, a national carrier, could fly again. This was during his first address to a new Cabinet and termed the lack of a national airline “a big shame,” Mr Museveni criticised Kenyan, Ethiopia and South African “brothers” for ditching the comradeship and instead opting to exploit Ugandans.

 The president directed the new Minister for Works and Transport to conclude discussions with investors to help Uganda start a national airline as a matter of urgency. The Uganda Airlines then resurrected, and was officially registered in 2017 and had its maiden flight to Nairobi in August 2018. 

 The Uganda Airlines, which was established in May 1976 under the Idi Amin government, was in 2001 liquated over heavy debts that stood at a tune of more than $6m (about Shs21b). The debt had been reduced from $12m (42.8b).

The liquidation, a painful reality, did not settle in well with a number of stakeholders, who blamed government for deliberately killing the airline.

Issues for board members

1. The board’s involvement in recruitment leading to corruption.

2. Collusion with management in recruitment of relatives and friends.

3. Flawed procurement and contracts mismanagement.

4. Poor risk analysis, management, implementation and follow-up

5. The board involvement in the day to day operations- micromanagement

6. Certification of Aircraft –inability to supervise the process as the board.

7. Ground handling wastage by the board

8. Aircraft maintenance organisation.

9. The board approval of high costs/ expenses without due diligence due to self-interest.

10. The board‘s lack of a performance score card for Senior Management team.

11. The board’s lack of functional and active committees

12. Ignoring security vetting.

13. Retaining pilots that failed simulator training.

14. Reports of bribery solicitation.

 

  Conclusion by the President: Uganda National Airlines has a dysfunctional, if not incompetent board. I would require them to defend themselves as to why I shouldn’t dissolve it and relieve it of its duties with immediate effect.    

Management Issues

1. Cornwell Muleya- Chief Executive Officer

-Failure to curb corruption of the errant officials

 2. Delayed operations of the Airbuses into service.

3. Delayed Self Handling project.

4. Gross procurement exceptions.

5. Poor market price assessment on procurements.

6. Lack of transparency in purchases.

7. Retrospective procurements

8. Instances of possible collusion and misuse of public funds.

9. Irregularities in bidding opening.

10. Awarding contracts  to non-compliant bidders.

11. Signing contracts against expired bids.

12. Missing contract signatures.

13. Failure to appoint contract managers.

14. Irregular advance payments.

15. Award of contracts without approvals from Solicitor General.

16. Different bidding documents to same bidders in the same procurement process.

17. Receipt of unsolicited bidders.

18. Differential rates.

19. Glaring revenue leakages.

20. Unethical human resource practices in recruitment.

21. Retaining pilots that failed simulator training.

22. Ignoring security vetting

23. Uncoordinated crew training.

24. Lack of transparency in purchases.

 

 

 

 

 

Uganda Airlines has started to fall into mismanagement again just as it had started flying again only two years ago:

Inside the Uganda Airlines corporation, African political interference is putting its ugly head in:

 

 

Written by The Uganda Observer

 

The chief executive Mr Cornwell Muleya

 

Infighting and self-generated crises have made the first two years of Uganda Airlines turbulent, and now the national carrier looks poised to disintegrate after seven top executives were forcefully sent on leave for three months by General Katumba Wamala, the minister of Works and Transport.

The executives on leave since May, include Cornwell Muleya, the Zambian, who is the airline’s chief executive officer; Joseph Sebbowa, the head of human resource; Paul Turyacayisanga, the finance director; Harvey Kalema, the manager ground handling and operations; and Bruno Origi, the director safety and compliance. Others are Moses Wangalwa, head of procurement and assets disposal; and Alex Kakooza, the airlines’ first captain.

The minister, according to insiders, ousted the seven at the urging of President Yoweri Museveni. Insider sources also say, the Airlines’ board chairman Perez Ahabwe is rowing with the minister of State for Works; Joy Kabatsi who has asked for convincing explanations about the Airline’s operations, failure of which, will lead to his suspension.

 

The Uganda airlines management recently explained that the national carrier is in deep financial distress because in the first two years of its operations, it was still in systems preparation for ultimate operation.

ALLEGATIONS

The swirl of allegations of poor performance and ouster of its top executives come on the coattails of the airline being named recently winner of the “ch-aviation World’s Youngest Aircraft Fleet Award 2021.”

SKY Airline of South America, SalamAir of Asia, JetSMART of South America and Baltic Air of Europe came in at 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th.

Those who know the airline CEO, Cornwell Muleya, have spoken highly of his aviation expertise and there is growing fear at the airline that should he leave, Uganda Airlines will be torn to shreds by the people he has been shielding it from.

The same people who are baying for his blood and have tried so hard to turn the president against him. There is hope, however, that the president, may lean on his intelligence system to dig up the truth.

In a dramatic twist earlier this month, the airline top managers were forced out of office. The executive cited nonperformance, alleged massive corruption, governance problems and other issues seen to be a threat to the survival of the company.

Insider sources said that it was unfair to send the top management on forced leave based on the audit report without hearing their side of the story and putting the “operating environment in context”.

It has since been established that such reports had earlier been highlighted by Muleya, in several letters sent to President Museveni way back in late 2020 and early 2021, but the reports never got to the president. In one of the reports to the president, the airline CEO blew the whistle on the same allegations for which he has been put on forced leave.

He pointed out that the bad press the company has got for a sustained period was a machination by a syndicate from within and without.

However, in a surprise move, the sacked Uganda Airlines commercial director, Jennifer Bamuturaki, is now back in employment at the Airline as second-in-command to the Acting CEO, a former flight captain, Wegoye, who, apart from his flying expertise, has no history of airline management.

Bamuturaki was fired at the end of her six-months’ probation back in 2020 for, among other mismanagement issues, having hired Abbavator, the media and PR firm she was closely linked to. It was a big conflict of interest that cost the airline hundreds of thousands of dollars in backhand deals and was the last straw for Muleya.

Abbavator allegedly over-invoiced Uganda Airlines to the tune of $232,000 (Shs 851.4m), which shot to $404,000 (Shs 1.4bn) yet the actual costs were $172,000 (Shs 631.2m).

The commercial director was also accused of using her position to establish external air stations on routes of Nairobi, Mombasa, Mogadishu, Mombasa, Dar es Salaam and Kirimanjaro.

When the board got wind of her dealings, it terminated her services. She sued Uganda Airlines for illegal dismissal and sought Shs 5bn in damages. But her case, according to the source, was dismissed.

Abbavator Ltd is also accused of failure to eventually comply with contractual obligations by not paying several media houses and eventually engaging in negative publicity against Uganda Airlines, whose image it was meant to protect.

Insiders also claim that Abbavator was in possession of Muleya’s confidential letters that never got to the president, and was among the whistleblowers that communicated to various government agencies including the Solicitor General, the State minister Transport, Kabatsi, and finally the president, citing corruption and challenging the termination of their contract after media suppliers had dragged them to court.

During her first short tenure at Uganda Airlines, Bamuturaki committed the company to hefty charges with their handlers in Mogadishu and a company representative in Mogadishu was threatened for trying to correct the same until he had to exit Somalia.

So, while the airline top managers are on leave, Bamuturaki is back at the airline and working closely with the presidentially-appointed lady that is leading investigations against the same CEO who sacked her for incompetence. She lost the industrial case and filed another for unlawful dismissal, which she withdrew days before she was reinstated at the airline recently.

Bamuturaki is looking to bounce back as CEO at the end of the 90 days, having been one of the authors of the damning dossier that tainted the top airline managers.

 

Following studies and wide consultations in 2019, the Cabinet of Uganda opted to re-launch Uganda Airlines, with six new lovely jets, two of which are wide-body.

 

However, should her allegations be found untrue, her mission might be impossible as the current CEO has a running contract for the next 18 months from February 2021 and aviation experts have praised him for steering Uganda Airlines to quick success.

It is now coming to three weeks since Muleya and some of his managers were sent on leave. Legal experts have warned that unless the matter is handled with fairness where all parties are heard fairly and facts presented, the airline could be sued for billions in damages and tarnish its global image hardly two years after its revival. Muleya couldn’t be reached for comment.

Minister’s backing

According to a highly placed source in the ministry of Works and Transport, Bamuturaki is propped up by one of the ministers of state.

The junior minister is not happy with the board because it blocked her efforts to appoint her people to fill different positions within the airline.

Secondly, the source intimated to us that the minister has rowed with Muleya before because the CEO refused to financially bankroll her re-election campaigns. Uganda Airlines was created as a corporate body, and not a government parastatal.

So, the ministry of Works and Transport doesn’t completely have absolute powers over Uganda Airlines. It plays an oversight role and it’s through the ministry of Works that Uganda Airlines was re-capitalized. According to our source, Uganda Airlines is supposed to run privately as a company.

This was done to protect the airline from the problems-especially “influence peddling by government officials, which the defunct Air Uganda faced.

Nb

Well if Ugandan elites cannot run any free and fair national election now 35 years, how could they try to run not again, this international airline company they bankrupted during their tenure in the state office?
 
 
 
 

'Historic occasion': Uganda receives new planes

After nearly two decades without a national flag carrier, Uganda now relishes bragging rights over a pair of CRJ900 Bombardier aircraft after a successful handover ceremony.

 

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Bombardier and Ugandan officials took a group photo in front of one of the new planes during the handover ceremony on Tuesday. (Credit: Bombardier Commercial Aircraft)

 

 

19 April, 2019


By Joseph Kizza

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@joekizza



When Uganda's brand-new planes straddle the tarmac of Entebbe International Airport for the first time Tuesday 23rd April, 2019, a new chapter in the local aviation industry will have been ushered in.

After nearly two decades without a national flag carrier, Uganda, a landlocked country, now relishes bragging rights over a pair of CRJ900 Bombardier aircraft after a successful handover ceremony at Bombardier’s Mirabel, Québec facility on Tuesday.

Exactly one week later, the two birds will taste Ugandan air for the first time -- and what a homecoming it is expected to be!

Past mistakes had to be avoided to get here, according to works and transport minister Eng. Monica Azuba Ntege.

During the handover ceremony, she said there was "careful evaluation of several elements such as the aircraft fleet mix" to revive Uganda Airlines. The function was attended by executives of both Uganda Airlines and Bombardier Commercial Aircraft and employees who build the CRJ900 aircraft.

 

At the end of last month, Uganda's Parliament, chaired by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, approved a government request for sh280b supplementary budget to buy the new places.

Any decision short of the approval would have meant Uganda losing $27.7m (about sh103b) that it had already deposited with Bombardier, a maker of both planes and trains.

Uganda's package, two of four planes that were ordered by Uganda National Airlines Company in July last year, are regional jets that were, according to Bombardier president Fred Cromer, designed for "excellent cost effeciency and network flexibility".

"Since its launch, the CRJ series family of regional jets has led to the development of regional markets around the world," he said on a stage mounted in front of one of the gleaming new planes during the colourful handover ceremony.

View image on Twitter
Part of Our CRJ900 cabin interior with the atmosphere mood lighting on display.
 
 
Uganda Airlines shall be the launch customer in Africa with the new and comfortable atmosphere cabin interior. 

 hhhhThe new planes are configured for both Business and Economy Class. (Credit: Bombardier Commercial Aircraft)

 

 

 

It is understood the new aircraft have a two-class configuration - Business Class and Economy Class, with a seating capacity of 12 and 64 people, respectively. The two planes have successfully been registered by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) as 5xkob and 5Xequ. 

Minister Azuba and the team she led to North America for the pivotal ceremony were received in Quebec by Uganda's high commissioner to Canada Joy Ruth Acheng.

Uganda Airlines CEO Ephraim Bagenda and works and transport ministry permanent secretary Waiswa Bageya were part of the travelling delegation, who were tasked with checking the conformity of the aircraft with contractual specifications.

 

'Uganda has great potential for tourism'


Azuba used her speech to also sell brand Uganda, saying the Pearl of Africa has "amazing beauty" and has "great potential for tourism, and export of high-value agricultural products". 

"Uganda is land-locked or land-linked and reliable air surfaces are therefore critical for exploitation of its natural endowment," she told guests.


When Uganda Airlines closed shop in 2001, the idea, according to the transport minister, was that foreign airlines would occupy the spce and "provide the critical air services". Apparently, it turned out they were not dependable -- the reason for government's move to revive ther national carrier.

 

'Your success is Africa's success' - Cromer

On his part, Bombardier boss Cromer said they are "deeply appreciative that the Ugandan government chose our aircraft for the revival of its national flag carrier" and underlined confidence that the CRJ900 will "contribute to Uganda Airlines' growth and success".

The new [atmosphere] cabin demonstrates how the Bombardier continues to move the benchmark in regional aviation and why customers like Uganda Airlines are coming along for the ride. In fact, this CRJ900 will go on a demo tour in Africa to showcase Uganda Airlines and the atmosphere cabin to various regions on the continent. So on behalf of the Bombardier CRJ team we would like to congratulate Uganda Airlines. 


We are proud to deliver this first CRJ900 aircraft fitted with the atmosphere cabin. Your success is Africa's success, and we are honoured to celebrate this with you. Thank you for trusting us and let us make this the start of a great partnership. Thank you very much.

 

 hhhh
The officials having a feel of the new plane. (Credit: Bombardier Commercial Aircraft)

 

How the planes will get to Uganda

The planes,which have 'Fly The Cranes to the Pearl of Africa' emblazoned on their exterior, are "fully paid for", PS Bageya said in earlier footage.

"On Tuesday, we should be able to take delivery of the two aircraft. I am happy the interim board of the company (Uganda Airlines) sat on Tuesday and passed a resolution granting me the powers of attorney to receive these planes on behalf of the company, witnessed by the minister [Azuba] and the CEO [Bagenda]. 

"After receiving the planes formally, then they will be able to become Ugandan property, sort the registration by CAA and then they will be flown to Entebbe."

"We are not supposed to fly on those aircraft. The aircraft will come with the delivery crew - pilots from Bombardier and our pilots with a few of engineers," said Uganda Airlines CEO Bagenda.

The planes will fly out of Montreal on Friday and pass through in northern Canada. Then they will head to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, before making their way to Maastricht in the southeast of the Netherlands. They will connect to Cairo, Egypt and then head straight to Entebbe, with ETA 3pm Ugandan time.