MPs Want UTL Closed & Given Decent Burial
By Prisca Wanyenya
Legislators on the Parliamentary Select Committee probing into the mismanagement of Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) want the embattled Company closed, and given a decent burial.
The calls to send the troubled Telecom Operator into the Cemetery were made by Paula Turyahikayo, the MP-Lubabo County in Rukungiri district on Friday.
“I don’t see why we should be deliberating with a dead horse. We should give UTL a decent burial and we chat a way forward”
Turyahikayo, who also doubles as Chairperson of the Parliamentary ICT Committee said.
Her remarks followed a caution made by Godfrey Mutabazi, the Executive
Director of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) who called for liquidation of UTL and allow Government to take full ownership of the Telecom Company.
As reported by Red Pepper, the Select Committee was established following a dossier tabled by Budadiri West MP, Nandala Mafabi who tabled hard core evidence detailing the fraud being committed by the top management.
He revealed how the top four Managers are walking away with a third of
UTL’s total wage bill despite the fact that the Telecom Company is chocking on Shs670Bn.
While meeting with Legislators, Mutabazi described as a hoax the proposal by the Libyan Government to inject in USD72M to rescue UTL, arguing that no amount of money will be in position to get UTL out of the dungeon of debts.
Mutabazi revealed that UTL has abused all the licensing provisions and seconded for its immediate closure of UTL, arguing that no amount of money would be able to rescue UTL.
Mutabazi said: “UTL has violated every provision of the law. Its license should have been revoked long ago. Something should be done because the weakness of UTL affects the whole industry and the country. I think we can give you logical facts for the last five years and judge for yourself. As a Regulator, I think this Company shouldn’t be running. If there is any other view, let someone come and convince us,” Mutabazi said.
Mutabazi went ahead to mock the proposal by Libyan Government, under
Libya Post, Telecommunication & IT Holding Company to recapitalize UTL with USD71.9, wondering why they didn’t inject the money, five years ago, when they took over leadership of the Company.
“UTL failed at their obligation. We have been engaging and nothing is changing and as a result, in my own judgment, UTL is in a position where it can’t be saved. Let them put any amount of money and we see if it is reversible, under the current circumstances, there is no amount of money that can save UTL. Why wake up after six years and say we are putting money to revamp UTL, it was taken over when it was a very dynamic company.”
In the evidence tabled before Parliament, UCC stated that UTL’s financial woes started as early as 2010.
Among the legal breaches brought against UTL are financial indebtedness to both UCC and other players in the industry.
UTL owes UCC Shs22Bn, it is also struggling to pay Shs92Bn, while MTN and Airtel are yet to receive Shs12Bn in interconnectivity fees from UTL.
The Regulator has also accused UTL of failure to adhere to financial provisions as stipulated in their license, illegal use of spectrum, failure of meeting interconnection obligations.
Mutabazi noted that the Telecom industry is very dynamic and UTL has failed to keep up with the high pace of innovation, thus riding behind in market competition.
Mutabazi said; “You can’t allow a weak company to compete with no innovation and while defaulting still operating on 2G network and you think you can survive in this industry.
The UCC boss lamented before MPs that his attempts to revoke the license of UTL have been hampered with cabinet memos that have called on UCC to reconsider their decision and let the Governments to settle the matter.
He revealed that the latest attempt to withdraw UTL’s spectrum was in his later to UTL on September 1st 2016.
However, Mbarara Municipality MP, Michael Tusiime refused to fall for Mutabazi’s lamentations, wondering why he is giving special treatment to UTL, at the expense of other players in the industry.
He wondered if UCC would have the moral authority to reprimand other players in the industry, if they happened to get caught up in the same scenario, yet special treatment has been given to UTL.
Tusiime blamed UCC for the mess at UTL saying the Regulator hasn’t assisted Ugandans in controlling the company that is going down.
“You don’t have excuses to say there have been negotiations because this matter came up five years ago with consistent noncompliance and you abdicated to execute your mandate to clamp down on UTL. It is extremely painful. Would you have given MTN the same treatment, MTN would have closed down,” Tusiime argued.
Another Committee member, William Nzoghu, put Mutabazi to task to explain why he issued a sham revocation letter to UTL, without implementing his treats.
He asked; “Why did you issue a redundant revocation in your mandate as
ED on September 1st 2016? Won’t MTN see you as having conflict of interest in exercising your mandate?
But Mutabazi maintained his stand assuring MPs that he didn’t bend any rules, by delaying to revoke UTL’s license, despite the numerous breaches, but he was simply protecting the interest of Government that has 31% shares in UTL.
Tusiime shot back at UCC, labeling the Regulator as being an incompetent regulator, saying; “You are equally non-compliant. This precedent you are setting on having interest on particular will trigger a circumstance, will you give similar approach to MTN. We are being part of the confusion and incompetence.”
Okia Ojara, the Chwa West MP also lashed out at Mutabazi for turning
UCC into a charity organisation, instead of protecting the interests of Uganda.
He said; “You are becoming a social worker. Here you are bound by the law. If someone is breaking the law, why don’t you act? Five years have elapsed and you are waiting for more negotiations. If there is an invisible hand behind this process, tell us off camera, you will be protected.”
Thomas Tayebwa, warned Mutabazi against hiding behind the veil of negotiations behind, stating that the ‘Libyan investors’ are just using him as a puppet.
“UTL is a finished product. I understand you are a Government Institution, in fact sometimes I pity you. These people have mastered the game of managing you. They know you will do nothing. Don’t you think whatever is being done is aimed at frustrating your efforts? Tayebwa said.
Mutabazi told MPs that the only solution to UTL’s woes is to liquidate so as Government to take full control of the company from a fresh start.
“I don’t believe these people (Libyans) are serious. I don’t believe they have got that money. Even if they brought money, assuming they hit a jackpot who is going to change UTL-the team that has been leading the organisation to come and revamp! The team that has been running the Company should step aside. I don’t believe that the current team can revamp UTL. It can’t work. There is no point.”