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UTL needs innovators, not ministerial squabbles

It is the survival of Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL in Administration) that is at stake. Not the superiority of the opinions or judgment of ministers. UTL has been in the news for the wrong reasons.

The minister of state for Privatization and Investment, Evelyn Anite, wants to get rid of the court-appointed administrator of UTL, Bemanya Twebaze by all means possible in total disregard of the law, legal advice from both the attorney general and his deputy, and speaker of parliament.

Anite believes Bemanya is acting counter to the interests of the company, directors and creditors as well as Ugandans who are the majority shareholders! The unilateral fight against the administrator risks being characterized as a personal fight between the minister and the administrator.

When in 2017 the Libyan shareholders pulled out of UTL, the company was saddled with huge debt in that it risked being liquidated if an innovative rescue plan could not be implemented. Accordingly, the creditors and directors sat and appointed an administrator who would try to revamp the entity with a view of keeping it afloat to the level of paying off its debts. The powers then to run UTL were vested in the administrator who is supervised by the High court.

The energy expended on clashes between the minister and the manager of UTL should be used to attract investors who should rescue the company from financial ruin. Investors love being involved in innovative entities.

The administrator needs to woo the investors by bringing onto the market a new marketable product. In terms of assets’ base, UTL has no match. Therefore, the rescue lies in getting strategic investors who could turn the different assets of UTL into marketable products. The squabbling between ministers and the administrator is reminiscent of what happened to the defunct Uganda Airlines. The company faced redeemable financial problems, and had fairly attracted some investors to rescue it.

But the personal interest of some highly placed government officials frustrated this effort. It appears that the curse is again lurking in the shadows of UTL. Several strategic investors have shown interest in UTL. But this has whipped up a bevy of wheel dealers who have to ensure their side wins.

This seems to be the cause of the sour taste in this UTL affair. UTL should not face the fate of Uganda Airlines, which was buried by clashing egos and feuds of some high-powered individuals. We are confident that sobriety and national interest will prevail and UTL will get the best deal.

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