The parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) retreated to write a final report after an inquest into the goings-on at Uganda Airlines.
The inquest spanned five weeks. The main protagonist was undoubtedly Ms Jenifer Bamuturaki—the beleaguered CEO of Uganda’s flag carrier that was only revived in 2019.
The airline reported operating losses totalling Shs498b across three fiscal years thanks in no small part to questionable contracts and transactions.
The airlines’ former CEO, Mr Cornwell Muleya, as well as its former board chairperson, Mr Perez Ahabwe, divulged information that implicated Ms Bamuturaki. For instance, Mr Ahabwe revealed that in the lead up to the revival of the airlines, Mixjet—a middleman agency—was outsourced to supply fuel to the airlines at a rate that was 20 percent higher than what other local entities such as Shell and Total would offer for the same job every month.
After undertaking an audit, Mr Ahabwe discovered that Mixjet, domiciled in Dubai, UAE, operated through a conduit office in Mogadishu, Somalia.
“Sourcing from a stockist in Entebbe would for example bring down the cost of fuel by 10 percent to 20 percent or more per month,” Mr Ahabwe revealed, adding, “In Mogadishu, a local fuel company was contracted by Mixjet to supply fuel to UNACL [Uganda National Airlines Company Limited]. However, this company does not find merit in incurring the cost of middleman, Mixjet, when they can supply directly under similar terms offered by the agent.”
The fuel saga is what interested the board to probe deeper into the state of affairs at the airline. To the Board’s dismay, the rot ran deeper. From companies hired to provide insurance to those that supplied services such as uniforms to cabin crew members and catering, everything was amiss.
“The board noted that the insurance policies in place had been procured under guidance of the CEO. Given the implications of the associated costs and risks, the board was concerned with whether the interests of the company had been safeguarded,” Mr Ahahwe told Cosase members a fortnight ago. “The Board noted that the price of the cabin crew uniforms was high yet the product quality was substandard.”
The Board also discovered that the company contracted to supply eateries aboard the airlines flights inflated costs. “It was found that NAS and LSG charge $22.08 and $9.47 for business class onboard service and $10.64 and $5.41 for economy. Newrest, which supplies UNACL, charges $31.54 for business class and $15.14 for economy,” Mr Ahabwe stated.
He added: “On average, the current provider then was $8.24 higher than NAS for business class and $4.5 for economy class and higher than LSG by $22.07 for business class and $9.47 for economy class respectively.”
The Cosase spotlight also illuminated $12,750 (about Shs48m) Ms Bamuturaki was cleared to receive on June 28, 2021, to facilitate 10 foreign trips to all stations across the airlines network. She was meant to travel to Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Mombasa, Zanzibar, Juba, Nairobi, Kilimanjaro, Dar es Salaam, Mogadishu, and Burundi between June 28 and July 30, 2021. By her admission, she only travelled to Nairobi, Kilimanjaro and Dar es Salaam.
The Shs176.4m-a-month deal with Abbavater Advertising also touched Ms Bamuturaki’s open wound. Evidence was proffered suggesting that she had interests in the little known firm that beat experienced players like WMC Africa (Shs35.2m) and Star Leo Advertising Limited (Shs36.8m) who offered to do PR work at a much cheaper rate.
The Shs964.2m ($253,189) lost through free flight tickets last November after 908 persons travelled for free also brought uncomfortable questions for Ms Bamuturaki. As did a Shs13m-a-month deal with theIndependent Online Journalism Association (Indoja) to tackle negative publicity.