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Uganda Airlines “Messed” By Incompetent Managers — Minister Says

Matia Kasaija told local media that  inaugural board of directors and managers have “messed up” Uganda Airlines because they lack technical competence, and experience.

Ugandan Finance Minister says the newly launched national flag carrier is facing corporate governance problems.

Matia Kasaija told local media that  inaugural board of directors and managers have “messed up” Uganda Airlines because they lack technical competence, and experience.

The East African country revived its  national carrier in 2019 to lower transport costs, boost tourism.  Uganda Airlines currently flies to 10 African destinations including Nairobi, Bujumbura, Johannesburg, Mogadishu, and one international route: Dubai.

However, since its launch, its operations have been bogged, which the Minister is as  a result of the appointment of the board directors and managers without experience in the aviation industry.

“We got people without first evaluating them and they have messed up things but we’re reshaping – both the board and management. But we also don’t blame them much because they didn’t have much experience. So we all plead guilty, me, I plead guilty for sure because we put in a board of people who we thought would do a good job.” said Kasaija.

He notes that top management led by the second acting CEO Cornwell Muleya “kept quiet” when things started going wrong, and when directors were interfering with management issues and trying to run the day-to-day activities of the airline.

The national carrier initially collapsed 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.

Now, as joint shareholders in the airline, Kasaija says 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 resource.

Kasaija’s comments come days after the interdicted board chairman Pereza Godfrey Ahabwe recommended to minister Katumba that he should consider firing the acting CEO, Jenifer Bamuturaki Musiime. Katumba recalled Bamuturaki in April following the suspension of Muleya, nine other managers, and the board.

Bamuturaki had earlier worked at Uganda Airlines as the commercial director but was dismissed over corruption allegations.

In his damning October 22, 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 13, 2019, to Jenifer Arnold Lenkai. Bamuturaki was appointed Uganda Airlines commercial director on April 1, 2019. Ahabwe says she duly accepted the appointment under her signature on April 4, 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 Bamuturaki, 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.

“Abbavater Group Post Office address (P.O Box 8389), on its stamp is the same address that Ms. Jenifer used to correspond with Uganda Airlines as evidence on her appointment letter.

The signature on the new person, JENIFER ARNOLD LANKEI bears close resemblance with that [of] Jenifer Bamuturaki Musiime who accepted a job as director commercial at Uganda Airlines on 04 April 2019,” Ahabwe writes in his letter to Katumba.

At the time, Ahabwe says procurement laws were breached because Abbavater was single-sourced by Bamuturaki out of self-interest because he claims one of the company’s directors, Mark Odeke, is a pastor at Bamuturaki’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 were reported to have attended the event held at over Shs 778 million, translating to Shs 1.2 million for each guest. Ahabwe says this was “excessive and there was no value for money.”

He adds that Bamuturaki also at one time, approved payment of an inflated invoice of $232,000 (about Shs 820 million), and yet the actual cost was just $172,000 (about Shs 608 million). Ahabwe also wants 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 for extra baggage.

“Currently, Uganda Airlines offers 3 pieces of baggage of 23kgs each free on board to its customers destined for Dubai in addition to its promotional fares. This is a good promotional strategy especially when Emirates Air gives only 2 pieces. This has attracted over 200 passengers who fly Uganda Airlines. However, it’s reported that extra pieces of baggage as many as 6 or even 9 are offered to some passengers with clearance from the Kampala sales office. It is suspected that someone is benefitting from this scam given that the A330neo-800 Airbus can accommodate in excess of 20,000 tons depending on the number of passengers on board…Assuming there is a deliberate negotiated payment of $100 for each piece, someone is pocketing a whopping $100,000 on a one-way flight to Dubai,” said Ahabwe.

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, Kasaija says the shareholders are looking into everything at the airline and will resolve them by mid-2022.

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, Middle East, West Africa, and Asia.
© Uganda Radio Network