Legislators probing into the alleged corruption, nepotism and operations at Uganda National Airlines Company Ltd have reportedly been warned to back off else they get killed.
But the chairperson of the committee on commissions, statutory authorities and state enterprises (Cosase) Joel Ssenyonyi has vowed not not to 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.
Uganda Airlines CEO Jenifer Bamuturaki, and other senior officers have been fingered for lack of integrity and lacking prerequisite academic qualifications to steer successful operations of the national flagship and cargo carrier.
The MPs discovered that the Uganda Airlines board unlawfully endorsed the appointment of Bamuturaki by President Yoweri Museveni in July 2022 after a competitive process for the selection of the ideal CEO through a consultancy firm, PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC), was irregularly terminated.
The sudden end to the search process that cost Shs 95 million to recruit the CEO paved way for the ring-fencing of the position for Bamuturaki when she had not even applied for the job. The 40 candidates who had already applied for the position were henceforth sidelined when the process was halted.
The board, therefore, had no way of ascertaining whether Bamuturaki was certainly more competent that any or all of the 40 applicants. Further, Cosase also discovered that prior to her elevation as CEO, Bamuturaki, as the commercial director, and also doubling as the contracts manager connived with then CEO 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 (about Shs 2.067 billion) to Abbavater which flouted the procedures of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets (PPDA) Act of 2003.
Apparently, three legislators who spoke to URN and requested their names be withheld to shield them against further intimidations disclosed that they have already received phone calls from unidentified persons warning them not to probe the queries deeper or face ‘regrettable consequences.’
Ssenyonyi said that they received similar threats when they were also investigating Uganda Railways Corporation and Uganda Land Commission.
"Regarding threats, the job that we do is a difficult one. When you’re exposing all this rot, it is tough. There will be those who will want to hurt you but we have got a job to do and we’re not going to allow anyone to try to intimidate us. Yes, there are people who call and say; no, please go slow on this issue, don’t dig deeper. All those calls are hitting deaf ears as far as Joel Ssenyonyi is concerned. We shall get to the bottom of this issue, we shall dig out everything that has got to be dug out," Ssenyonyi said.
The MPs though expressed worry about the safety of their witnesses who have been crucial in sharing relevant documents to facilitate the investigation processes to hold accountable culprits who have misused public resources.
The MPs' probing stems from the Auditor General's 2020/2021 report that implicated the airline for operating without the recommended staff and salary structures, operating at a loss, and flouting procurement guidelines.