Uganda: How Uganda Airlines Bosses Exit Was Plotted

(file photo).

Following a damning report by the Auditor General of how the recently revived Uganda Airlines had made financial losses, slightly a year into operations, Gen Salim Saleh, the coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation, sent a brief to then State Minister for Works, Ms Joy Kabatsi, for immediate action.

The Auditor General's report, which mainly focused on the national carrier's performance in the Financial Years 2018/2019 and 2019/2020, indicated that the airline had posted a loss of Shs15b in the Financial Year 2018/2019 and losses of a staggering Shs102b in the Financial Year 2019/2020.

"The company was unable to realise its planned revenue, yet the expenditure on operations was way above projected costs. The company only realised $9.9m (about Shs36b or 10.8 per cent) of the projected revenue of $92.8m (about Shs334b)." the AG, Mr John Muwanga, stated in his report.

In response to Gen Saleh's brief, Ms Kabatsi on April 26 wrote a 12-point letter to the board and management of the national carrier.

The minister's letter titled Pertinent issues regarding the management and operations of Uganda Airlines, among others, questioned the board's role in recruitment of staff, and procurement of goods and services, for the airline.

It also raised issue with inordinately delayed certification of the AirbusA330neo fleet, failure by the technical department to develop operations manuals to the satisfaction of the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority and the delayed establishment of an aircraft maintenance and repair organisation as per the business plan.

Ms Kabatsi also questioned the costly recurrent training in simulators for pilots.

Despite the minister giving the board members a week's ultimatum to respond to the pertinent issues raised or be suspended, it is alleged that they (board members) ignored the same and instead leaked the letter to the media.

It is to that effect that Works minister, Gen Katumba Wamala, sent seven Uganda Airlines managers on forced leave.

In his letter, the minister reasoned that the forced leave was aimed at paving way for the investigations into the allegations raised against their conduct of business.

Mr Cornwell Muleya, the acting chief executive officer, whose contract had just been extended to September 2022, was among those affected.

When contacted yesterday, Ms Kabatsi said her 12-point letter demands were not acted upon as directed.

"There is no management that is acting on what I asked them [to do]. Going forward, I expect hard work with new management. I hope everything will move on well now," she said by telephone.

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The top managers did not see their suspension coming, though our sources say, President Museveni, who had been acting on intelligence information, had been privy to a number of wrongs that were going on at the national carrier.

During last week's address, President Museveni said Uganda Airlines was being supported by government to do business, but had been infiltrated and messed up by corrupt officials and that some elements at the management level and board must be sanctioned.

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