Uganda Airlines is facing corporate governance problems because the inaugural board of directors and managers lacks experience, the Finance, Planning, and Economic Development Minister, Matia Kasaija has revealed.
The government revived the national carrier 2019 lower transport costs, boost tourism and business opportunities for Ugandans.
Uganda Airlines currently flies to 10 African destinations including Nairobi, Bujumbura, Johannesburg, Mogadishu, and one international route that is Dubai.
According to the business plan, the airline was expected to fly to at least 20 destinations by end of this year including London, Addis Ababa, Lusaka, Mumbai, Guangzhou among others to connect Uganda to Europe, the Middle East, West Africa, and Asia.
According to Kasaija the operations of the national carrier have been dodged by mismanagement and the gross impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global travels among other issues.
He said that the two rocky years of the national carrier have largely been a result of the appointment of the board directors and managers without experience in the aviation industry.
He said the top management led by the second acting CEO Cornwell Muleya also messed up the airline because they “kept quiet” when things started going wrong such as the directors interfering with management issues and trying to run the day-to-day activities of the airline.
Earlier on, the national carrier collapsed to due to corruption.
The same issues seemed to have re-emerged in the revived airline resulting in the suspension of the board and some top managers.
Gen. Katumba Wamala, the Minister for Works and Transport justified the suspensions of the board to pave way for investigations.
As joint shareholders in the airline, Kasaija said that both the finance and works ministries are “working round the clock” to put in place a competent board and iron out problems regarding human resources.
Kasaija’s comments come days after the interdicted board chairman Pereza Godfrey Ahabwe recommended to Gen. Katumba that he should consider firing the acting CEO, Jenifer Bamuturaki Musiime. Gen. Katumba recalled Musiime in April following the suspension of Muleya, nine other managers, and the board.
Musiime had earlier worked at Uganda Airlines as the commercial director but was dismissed over corruption allegations.
In his October 22nd, 2021 letter, Ahabwe, says that he has additional evidence that implicates Bamuturaki.
The letter is titled “Further evidence of conflict of interest, moral turpitude and mismanagement of Uganda Airlines by Ms. Jenifer Bamuturaki Musiime aka Jenifer Arnold Lenkai”.
Ahabwe claims that Bamuturaki is masquerading as Jenifer Bamuturaki Musiime because she changed her name on February 13th, 2019 to Jenifer Arnold Lenkai.
On April 1st, 2019, Uganda Airlines appointed Jenifer Bamuturaki Musiime as the Commercial Director.
He said she duly accepted the appointment under her signature on April 4th, 2019.
“The deliberate move to have a dual identity, one for business and other for formal employment as her CV indicates, smacks of a person devoid of the high moral standing required of a chief executive officer of an airline,” he said.
As a result, he says she “should be relieved of her duties to save the Uganda Airlines image and further damage.” Ahabwe explains that Musiime, as the Commercial Director at the Airline had a conflict of interest in Abbavater Group, a company that was hired to handle events and media services for the airline in 2019.
At the time, Ahabwe says procurement laws were breached because Abbavater was single-sourced by Musiime out of self-interest because he claims one of the company’s directors, Mark Odeke, is a pastor at Musiime’s church.
He further explains that the company inflated costs for events such as the receiving ceremony for the first two CRJ900 Bombardier aircraft in 2019.
600 guests attended the event held at over Shillings 778million, translation Shillings 1.2 million for each guest. Ahabwe says this was “excessive and there was no value for money.”
He added that Musiime also one-time approved payment of an inflated invoice of US$ 232,000 about Shillings 820 million and yet the actual cost was US$ 172,000 about Shillings 608million.
He also wants Gen. Katumba to look into the revenue the airline is currently making from carrying passengers and cargo to, particularly Dubai.
The airline commenced Dubai flights on October 3. Ahabwe says Dubai passengers are allowed to board with a maximum of 5 pieces of baggage but there is no record of the extra money collected.
As a result, he accuses the acting CEO of being corrupt, dishonest, and unfit to steer the airline in the right direction.
Bamuturaki had not responded to the allegations by the time of filing this report.
However, finance minister Kasaija said the shareholders are looking into everything at the airline and will resolve them by mid-2022.