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Corruption is killing Uganda Airlines – CEO

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Uganda Airlines Board of Directors
Uganda Airlines Board of Directors

The suspended Uganda Airlines CEO, Cornwell Muleya has highlighted the reasons why the National Carrier is bound to fail.

The main reason he cites is a leaked confidential letter to President Yoweri Museveni is corruption, and the inefficiency of the Airline’s Board.

According to Muleya, none of the Board members has a background in the aviation industry.

“Normally even if the board do not have individual expertise in the industry, they can perform well if they are seasoned professionals with good knowledge of corporate governance principles in particular the separation of roles between the board and management. In accordance with corporate governance principles, the board should limit itself to structures, strategy and policy levels, and not interfere in day to day management issues.”

However, the main problem has been, the tendency by some board members, to push for promotion of self interest instead of concentrating on safeguarding the interests of Uganda Airlines at all times.

“This unhealthy practice has led them into trying to interfere in management areas especially in the areas of procurement and staff recruitment in the airline. In procurement specifically, management has witnessed cases where Board members have met some members of the management team with a view to find ways of invoice loading and other money making schemes from the airline that employs them.”

This collusion brought about inefficiency within the management team as managers with such backing have tended to slow down key airline projects as they push their personal agendas while they feel protected by some people on the Board and ministries.

Muleya further adds that as an Accounting officer who is supposed to sign on every major procurement, he has stopped many selfish schemes but every time it has happened, members of his management team always rush back to their protectors at the Board and ministries who assure them that the CEO, being a foreigner will be changed any time.

He says some Board members have gone as further as advising him to adjust and do things the Ugandan way for he is too rigid and inflexible.

“They advised that I must try to understand how business is done in Uganda because these practices are normal in this country otherwise I would find myself alone. We are viewed as not to have met people’s expectations to give some monies back to relevant officials who facilitate the transfer of funds to government departments as is the practice in other organisations. This practice was reinforced recently when ministry internal auditors and auditors from the Auditor General came to the airline to perform their audit reviews.

“I was advised by my staff that the first group asked for $50,000 in order to give a good report on the airline, to which I said no. The second group also wanted to be paid in the region of between Shs100-150million also to give a good report but I advised my staff to let them know such practices have no place at Uganda Airlines because we work on principles of full accountability.

“The truth of the matter is that since accepting the mandate to set up this Airline first as Technical adviser and after as CEO, we have pushed to ensure proper structures are put in place to protect the company’s interests and to ensure the airline is run professionally according to International standards. Whereas majority of the staff including pilots and engineers are fully behind the programs we have set, there are certain people within and outside who have constantly been working either to ensure either the project is derailed and fails, or that their private personal agendas are satisfied.”

It should be remembered that Uganda Airlines took delivery of two Airbus A330-800neo in December and January but both have been grounded ever since.

This had been the case with even the first acquisitions. They were also grounded for months before they started flying. It is important to note that it is vital to constantly keep a plane in the air, for every minute a plane is on the ground, it loses money.

Currently Uganda Airlines loses stand at Shs102billion.

The Airline’s Board being complained about comprises of Ahabwe Godfrey Pereza (Board chairman), Stephen Aziku Zuwa (technical member of the board), Benon Kajuna (Representing the Ministry of Works and Transport), Godfrey Semugoma (From the Ministry of Finance Planning and Economic Development), Charles Hamya, Catherine Asinde Poran and Rehema Mutazindwa.

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