President Yoweri Museveni has at last broken his silence on the troubles affecting the operations of Uganda Airlines.
On Thursday, Museveni travelled aboard Uganda Airlines to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania for the signing of the tripartite host government agreements for the East African crude oil project, the first he used the airline since was revived three years ago.
On his return, Museveni threatened to take action against corrupt officers in the airline.
“I had not flown using [Uganda Airlines] until yesterday. The crew is very good. When they were landing, I did not know we had landed. Regarding the alleged corruption in the airline, some elements in management and the board must face the consequences,” Museveni said in a tweet.
“The airline had been infiltrated by some alleged corruption which I have smashed. Disciplining the board and some elements in management…” Museveni said in a video posted online.
The president’s flight on Uganda Airlines came at a time when it has attracted a lot of negative publicity because of alleged corruption and mismanagement. The 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 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 airlines’ first captain.
Although Gen. Katumba has been arguing 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.
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 102 billion Shillings, a sharp rise from 15 billion Shillings registered in the 2018/19 financial year. The airline operation costs were increasing quickly but the revenue wasn’t, and the company was unable to realise its planned revenue, yet the expenditure on operations was way above projected costs.
The company only realised $ 9.9 million (10.8 percent) 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.”