URN| Kampala/Entebbe – After flying Uganda Airlines to Tanzania for the signing of oil agreements, President Yoweri Museveni has vowed that corrupt officials in the management and board of the airline “must face consequences.”
The president’s maiden flight on Uganda Airlines came at a time when it has attracted a lot of negative publicity because of alleged corruption and mismanagement. Then Works and Transport minister, Gen Katumba Wamala at the end of last month suspended senior airline managers including the CEO Cornwell Muleya.
Others on suspension are Joseph Sebbowa, the head of human resources, Paul Turyacayisanga, the finance director, Harvey Kalema, the manager of ground handling and operations, and Bruno Origi, the director of safety and compliance. Others are Moses Wangalwa, head of procurement and assets disposal and Alex Kakooza, the airline’s first captain.
Although Gen Katumba has been claiming that senior managers were not suspended but advised to take their accumulated leave, he admitted that they are taking this “time to look into how they were doing business.”
While interacting with a flight crew after landing at Entebbe International airport, Museveni said that some elements in the management of Uganda Airlines and the board must face the consequence, regarding the alleged corruption, according to a short video he has tweeted this morning.
“I had not flown using @UG_Airlines until yesterday. The crew is very good. When they were landing, I did not know we had landed,” Museveni tweeted. “Regarding the alleged corruption in the airline, some elements in management and the board must face the consequences,” he added.
The airline that is bedeviled by corruption and mismanagement is barely two years old. It launched its regional maiden flight in September 2019 before the pandemic hit. And when Museveni welcomed the set of Bombardier jets in Entebbe in 2019, he vowed, “I was among those who buried the old airline and I am among the midwives delivering the new baby. This new baby will never die.”
However, the Auditor General’s report for the 2019/2020 financial year revealed that the airline made losses of Shs 102 billion, a sharp rise from Shs 15 billion registered in FY 2018/19. The airline operation costs were increasing quicker than the revenue, and the company was unable to realize its planned revenue, yet the expenditure on operations was way above projected costs.
“The company only realized $9.9 million (10.8 per cent) of the projected revenue of $92.8 million,” the report said. There have been accusations of connected politicians trying to secure jobs for their relatives or demanding airline supply contracts.
But this is precisely what a feasibility study by the National Planning Authority that informed revival of the airline warned about.
The study warned that “national airlines especially are not free to make good business decisions due to politicians interfering in the running of the airline.”
The airline wouldn’t face doom and gloom, the study noted if “ the national airline is run professionally by competent managers with strategies aligned to the economic objectives of the country” and “the airline is insulated from political and other influences with a strong corporate governance structure.”