July 20, 2024

MPs cite death threats in ongoing probe into Uganda airlines

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What you need to know:

  • The committee Chairman Mr Joel Senyonyi confirmed the threats, reaffirming that they won’t back off from holding corrupt public officials accountable for causing financial losses to the government. He added that they have surrendered their safety and well-being in God’s hand for divine protection.

Lawmakers sitting on the Parliamentary Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) have cited death threats relating to the ongoing probe into the irregular operations of Uganda Airlines.

The committee Chairman Mr Joel Senyonyi confirmed the threats, reaffirming that they won’t back off from holding corrupt public officials accountable for causing financial losses to the government. He added that they have surrendered their safety and well-being in God’s hand for divine protection.

Preliminary findings of the committee have pinned down the Airlines’ Chief Executive Officer, Ms Jenifer Bamuturaki, and other senior officers for lack of integrity and prerequisite qualifications to steer successful operations of the national flagship and cargo carrier.

The committee also discovered that the Board unlawfully endorsed the appointment of Ms Bamuturaki by President Yoweri Museveni in July 2022 after a competitive process for the selection of the ideal CEO through a consultancy firm, PriceWaterHouseCoopers, was irregularly terminated.

The sudden end to the search process cost Shs95 million and paved way for the ring-fencing of the position for Bamuturaki, yet she had not even applied for it. At least 40 candidates had applied for the position awaiting shortlisting and subsequent interviews. The board, therefore, had no way of ascertaining whether Bamuturaki was more competent than any or all of the 40 applicants, according to the committee.

The committee also discovered that prior to her elevation as CEO, Ms Bamuturaki, as the Commercial Director also doubling as the Contracts Manager, connived with then acting CEO, Mr Ephraim Kalyebara Bagenda, to exclusively solicit for Abbavater Group Limited to undertake public relations work for the Airlines without competitive bidding process.

Consequently, the duo influenced the award of the service contract amounting to 540,000 US dollars, about Shs2 billion, to the Abbavater Group which flouted the procedures of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) Act of 2003.

Apparently, three legislators who spoke to this reporter and requested their names be withheld to shield them against further intimidation, disclosed that they have already received phone calls from unidentified persons warning them not to probe deeper or face ‘regrettable consequences.’

But for the record, Ms Joel Ssenyonyi, the Committee Chairperson confirmed the threats, adding that similar threats recently also arose from their previous investigations into the Uganda Railways Corporation (URC), with the latest being the Uganda Land Commission.

“Regarding threats, even when you have guards you can be gunned down. We have seen many incidents like that. But most importantly, we have got a job to do however difficult it may be,” he said.

Mr Ssenyonyi reaffirmed that they won’t back off from holding corrupt public officials accountable for causing financial losses to the government, adding that they have surrendered their safety and well-being in God’s hand for divine protection.

“We are not going to allow anyone to try intimidating us. There are people who call and say ‘go slow on this issue’, ‘please don’t dig deeper’ but all of those calls are hitting deaf ears. As long as am concerned, we will get to the bottom of this issue,” Mr Ssenyonyi noted.

The Ssenyonyi-led committee findings further corroborate the report of the Auditor General for the Financial Year 2020/2021 implicating the Airlines for operating without the recommended staff and salary structures, operating at a loss and flouting procurement guidelines.

The MPs are also worried of the safety of their witnesses who have been crucial in sharing relevant documents to facilitate the investigation processes to hold culprits accountable.

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