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HERE ARE THE 100 AXED UGANDA AIRLINES BOSSES’ SCANDALS YOU WON’T FIND ANYWHERE ELSE

By Isaac Wandubile

As we now know, many bosses at Uganda Airlines have been purged and knowledgeable sources say the worst is yet to happen. For a lot of those senior managers, the President has reportedly insisted, it won’t only be about losing their jobs but will also have to rot in Luzira. In place is a team of investigators Gen Museveni put in place and every passing day, the team is digging up new things and thereby expanding on lines that require comprehensive inquiry.

A group of senior officers, led by Afande Night Kwikiriza, who heads intelligence in SFC, are the ones supervising the investigations on behalf of the President who sometime has even had to directly ring some of the individual officers involved in the inquiry. The Uganda Airlines revamp is one project which is so dear to Gen Museveni, he can’t take chances.

It’s so dear to the man from Rwakitura because it relates to his key campaign manifesto promise whose implementation has generated plenty of positive publicity for the NRM besides costing the taxpayer trillions thus far. In the FY2021/22 alone, Shs117,626,000,000 has been allocated to keep the company running. That is besides the Bombardiers and the two Airbuses (each carrying 260 passengers) which were procured last December. Gen Museveni rightly believes a success Uganda Airlines will also compliment his efforts to grow the country’s tourism receipts.

DETAILING THE ROT

In this weekend feature, Mulengera News highlights some of the shocking information the Museveni investigating teams have continued to unearth regarding the rot at Uganda Airlines.

RECRUITMENT SCANDALS

Museveni’s investigators have unearthed a lot about the extent to which the now suspended Cornwell Muleya-era managers messed up matters relating to staff recruitment. First of all they breached the President’s directive that required to prioritize employment of Ugandans at the company’s outstations (call them branches abroad). The requirement was that at least the country manager and station manager be Ugandans as often as possible. This was curiously ignored after one of the managers asserted that Ugandans would be nosy and would report some of the dubious deals involving inflated expenses through which members of a powerful cabal intended to make money.

Ugandan employees were considered ideal for deployment at the outstations because they know Uganda and can market it well to potential travelers and tourists. Their exclusion at outstations like the one in Kenya and Tanzania [among others] is the reason why the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been bitter with the Muleya-era management while relentlessly calling on Gen Museveni to crack the whip.

Consequently because of this deliberate policy to exclude Ugandans on grounds that they might spy and report their bosses’ money-making deals back home in Kampala, many Uganda Airlines Outstations don’t have a single Ugandan working there yet these are well-paying jobs. On average each such station has 16 employees. Majority of them are supposed to do sales to attract potential travelers and tourists to consider travelling to Uganda using Uganda Airlines. In Mogadishu, which is currently one of the most lucrative routes for Uganda Airlines, no single Ugandan works there.

The Ugandan who was serving there as Country Manager, Richard Kinalwa, was controversially demoted and recalled back to headquarters in Entebbe. Mogadishu is a lucrative route because Uganda Airlines currently does four flights there a week each carrying a minimum of 70 passengers. Each pays at least $352 for a return journey ticket. Kinalwa was concerned that a lot of this money wasn’t coming to the company coffers and was instead being shared by some people. He innocently rang the headquarters reporting to superiors who turned out to be beneficiaries of the fraud and he inadvertently burnt his fingers. Kinalwa also reported about inflated fuel deals and handling fees at his station insisting it was his patriotic duty to report.

Currently, for its Mogadishu operations, the airline depends on a notorious travel agent who ironically has continued to be protected because he defrauds through under declaration of ticket sales and shares proceeds with people at the headquarters where many have been and continue to be purged.

Those purged so far include CEO Cornwell Muleya, junior but very powerful pilot Kenneth Kiyemba, first/co-pilot Alex Kakooza, ground-handling manager Harvey Kalama, procurement manager Moses Wangalwa, Director Finance Paul Turacayisenga, procurement officer Tom Gidudu, safely manager Bruno Origi, HR Manager Joseph Sebowa, Administration Manager Andrew Tumusiime and HR Assistant Annet Apio among others.

Yet Kinalwa’s predicament isn’t his alone. Another Uganda Airlines Manager for Juba, another very lucrative route, was equally marginalized after he detected corruption dealings and reported the same to the headquarters only to get punished as opposed to being rewarded. The Juba station manager wrote an email to the headquarters questioning why Uganda Airlines was being charged $600 per flight for handling services by JAS Handling Ltd yet the same service provider was charging Rwanda Air $300 per flight.

Instead of being saluted, the Manager was demoted and eventually recalled back to Uganda where he was put on katebe. Gen Museveni’s investigators want to know why such whistle blowers get punished instead of being rewarded to encourage others.

The circumstances under which DAS Handling Services got the Uganda Airlines handling deal for Entebbe are equally being inquired into. The airline managers will also have to explain why they resented the idea of having at least two Ugandans employed in each outstation yet the same is the acceptable industry practice commonly applied by Ethiopian Airways, Rwanda Air and even Kenya Airways. In Kenya all the 16 employees working for the Uganda Airlines outstation are Kenyans and some of them claim to have paid bribes for the Uganda Airlines management to consider them for work.

THE JUBA SCANDAL

This thing of people paying to be recruited into the service of Uganda Airlines has been widespread and one of the notorious cases Museveni’s investigators are keenly looking into involves a one Dominic (not real name), a South Sudanese national who last month paid $2,000 (about Shs8m) to be considered for the job of station manager for the Juba route. Three top Uganda Airlines officials travelled to Juba (at a rate of $350 per diem per day) to conduct interviews and have Dominic recruited. He was coerced to part with $2,000 for one of them and when he cried out saying that is all he had, it was agreed that his first salary for 2 months (earns Shs12m per month) would cater for the balance. He was ready to start work only to be told to wait until the current storm at the Entebbe-based airline settles. He has resorted to being bitter and has vowed to do more than merely cooperating with Museveni’s investigators because he wants those who conned him exposed on social media which he says he is prepared to do unless his $2000 is refunded.

Recruitment-related anomalies have also been cited in the way some of the very beautiful girls working as Cabin Crew members were brought into Uganda Airlines. Besides the 50-year old Julian Otage, who is accused of fermenting intrigue as she sought Muleya’s backing to become Cabin Crew Manager, Museveni’s investigators are also looking into circumstances under which a one Claire Kirumira was lured from Das Air into the national airline where she started out as a check in agent. Today, she is very powerful to the extent that she even sits on interview panels whenever potential air hostesses are being recruited. She actually has been more powerful than the young man serving as the company’s Cabin Crew Manager. In fact, one of the recently suspended big men has lately been chilling at one of her apartments in Katabi.

THERE IS MUCH MORE

Yet that isn’t all about recruitment-related anomalies at the national airline. Recently there was recruitment of equipment operators for the airline at Entebbe International Airport. Many big men at the airline saw this as an opportunity to fend for their cronies and girlfriends or those willing to pay. Some of the guys have remained aggrieved regarding the way they were recruited and some of them have already spoken to the investigators pining someone in the HR department. That they were each asked to pay Shs1.5m upfront besides committing to forfeit their first salary. This category of staff are the ones who deliver you up to the aircraft, check in passengers and generally coordinate the boarding process.

Imploring the President’s investigators to scrutinize every recruitment decision that came after the Taskforce period that preceded the Muleyas at Uganda Airlines, the equipment operators have revealed that whereas many of them began work at the beginning of this very May, their appointment letters and IDs show they have been working at the airline since February 2021.

“We all saw the anomaly on our documents but the excitement of having a job was simply too much we feared to ask,” says one of the perturbed equipment operators. “In the process of soliciting bribes, the airline was deprived of an opportunity to recruit the very best guys with all the experience.”

Even in the Kenyan outstation, one of the 16 Kenyans working for the airline has confided in the investigators claiming to have been asked to make monthly remittances of the equivalent of $400 per month (a fraction of his salary) to one of the big men at the airline who was introduced to him as very influential yet grassing and financially vulnerable.

There are also another three (3) check in agents who were recruited a just a week before the Museveni/Katumba Wamala purge happened. It’s a generally new department whose creation some protested as amounting to duplicating work which had already been outsourced to DAS Handling Ltd. These were merely close relations to some of the big people in the pre-purge airline. They are to each earn Shs3.5m per month and whereas one is a brother-in-law to a powerful pilot (who always threatens people by dropping the President’s name), another is an OB to a big person in procurement. The other is a nephew to a key HR official. The trio was not only recruited for nonexistent jobs but their entry also wasn’t preceded by any job advert or interview process.

The investigators will also inquire into another category of employees who were recruited without responding to any job advert or going through interview process. This is common under the ground operations whose boss Harvey Kalama (a very proud Kenyan who always despised Ugandans) occasionally clashed with HR Head Joseph Sebowa over some of the recruitment decisions. Sebowa wanted guys coming to serve as equipment operators to come through an advert, a thing Kalama opposed in favor of head-hunting.

The powerful Kenyan passionately argued that head-hunting was much better and his option was to poach some of the good guys from NAS and DAS Handling. The resultant sharp disagreements were still raging as of two weeks ago when both of them got purged. They are now waiting for the worst as Gen Museveni has insisted on criminal prosecution for some of the purged officials.

Kalama, whose ground operations department is home to many of the things and transactions Gen Museveni wants to be inquired into, also continues to be perceived as defiant. This characterization came about after Gen Museveni got reports that even after being suspended, the flamboyant Kenyan had continued accessing Uganda Airlines premises including the airport office where he would even conduct meetings for his private things after the suspension.

At the prompting of Gen Museveni, who is closely following and monitoring the ongoing staff purge at the national airline, all the suspended managers have since had their premises’ access details deactivated to ensure none of them can access any office again. This is meant to ensure the defiants like Harvey Kalama don’t ever dare come anywhere near their former offices again. The H.E. fears that any access will enable the officers being investigated to falsify records and transactions relating to handing operations, ground handling equipment purchases, fuel purchases and handling fees.

MULEYA EXTORTED

There are also claims that some superficially influential power brokers in Kampala and within the relevant Ministries had been attempting to extort bribes from CEO Cornwell Muleya on the assumption that he was desperate for a substantive contract as MD. Indeed, it’s to this very desperation that the equally knifed Board Chairman Pereza Ahabwe spoke a few weeks ago when he addressed guests at a thanksgiving party Muleya hosted at Anderita Beach to celebrate the extension of his contract as acting CEO.

Renowned for being pompous, Ahabwe, speaking as guest of honor, assured Muleya: “Bwana CEO don’t worry. You will have your job forever. I have talked to the President, as I always do, and I’m speaking with all the authority on this matter.” Barely two weeks later came the purge, prompting many Muleya haters inside the airline to sarcastically refer to the Ahabwe submission as a disguised farewell speech which the audience only misconstrued for something else.

The investigators are also looking into why the management, and more so the HR Head Sebowa, always prompted Ahabwe, whose recruitment mandate stops at top level positions, to offer himself to be part of delegations that travelled to different countries to conduct the recruitment of drivers, security guards and ticketing agents etc. That, much as such would qualify Ahabwe to earn $350 per day in per diem, the same was belittling of an entire Board Chairman. The alleged Muleya comment, reportedly made during a visit to Swaziland, to the effect that the knifed CEO hated Ugandans merely because they too hated and didn’t trust him, is equally being inquired into as regards the motive and what the Zambian expatriate could exactly have meant.

POTENTIAL SABOTAGE

Gen Museveni is also inquiring into possible sabotage because many of the mistakes that were done must have been deliberate and aimed at frustrating the revamp project. These mistakes include excluding Ugandans from employment at the outside stations yet it’s them who know more and are better suited to market their country to potential travelers and tourists than anyone else.

The big man is also intrigued that the 2 Airbuses, which cost the taxpayer a fortune, have remained parked at Entebbe since their procurement and delivery last December. This is so because the Uganda Airlines management ineptly omitted to commence processes leading to the required UCAA and ICAO certifications on time. Such ineptness, coupled with failure to secure the appropriate certification for the airline pilots, explains why the UK recently declined to grant the relevant landing rights onto their territory. The ideal thing would be to commence the certification processes as soon as the manufacturing of the 2 Airbuses began but Gen Museveni is now wondering how a CEO of Muleya’s experience would have overlooked such basic things.

VEHICLES PROCUREMENT

The procurement of three brand new vehicles for each of the outstations is another area that is being inquired specifically regarding claims that Toyota Uganda was kicked out in favor of MAYBACK Uganda under very curious circumstances. Director of Finance and Head PDU will have a lot of explaining to do after very wild allegations were reported to the President regarding the actual reason why the very professional Toyota Uganda was kicked out.

Even the allocation and utilization of the vehicles is equally being looked into because some of the busiest and more lucrative stations are under facilitated with fewer vehicles whose fueling-related procurements and invoicing is equally being inquired into just like that of the aircrafts themselves which was controversially awarded to Jetex fuel, a Dubai-based firm whose invoices for payment are never scrutinized nor verified before payment is effected. Indeed, the transactions between Jetex and the suspended members of the Uganda Airlines management is one of the many areas Museveni’s investigators are inquiring into.

Failure to adequately facilitate sales and marketing teams within Uganda is another area of potential mischief Gen Museveni wants to be inquired into. The big man from Rwakitura is appalled as to why young people deployed to sell the airline to potential individual and institutional clients within Uganda, are made to travel on Boda-Bodas as if their employer can’t afford at least staff vans.

One of the few vehicles available to the department has counterproductively been monopolized by the sales manager, a one Deo Nyanzi who is based in Kampala. The Museveni investigators will be inquiring into what Nyanzi’s targets are [if any] and the extent to which he has been meeting those targets. The travel agents, who also bring sales business to Uganda Airlines for a commission, are saying many negative things about him and the investigators have already interacted with some for their insight regarding what has gone wrong in the way the national airline has been conducting its sales business.

The other ineptness, whose motivation will equally be inquired into, is manifested in the fact that the Deo Nyanzi-led sales teams have only been facilitated to concentrate on Kampala and Entebbe yet there is huge travel market potential in other Ugandan towns like Hoima, Jinja among others. Facilitation for the teams is equally being inquired into including the fact that each of the outstations (manned by none Ugandans) is allocated a weekly imprest of $10,000 [roughly Shs40m] including posts which don’t make any sales at all and are clearly loss-making.

FLYING THE SPOUSES

Ahead of the planned new routes-opening, several trips have been made across the globe and places where Uganda Airlines delegations have been to include Johannesburg, Dubai/UAE, United Kingdom, Goma and Kisangani in DR Congo. Instead of moving with relevant airline staffers, some of the now-suspended officials carried their spouses and girlfriends who have nothing to do with the airline (and in the process got for them generous per diems). This is one area of potential misappropriation and abuse of resources that Museveni’s investigators are inquiring into.

Reports coming in through ESO have implicated some of the airlines officials over claims that their agents and proxies had already extorted money from people in those countries in return for jobs once the planed routes are operationalized which is supposed to be soon.

ESO has gathered a lot of intel on this alleged extortion from especially the Congolese towns of Goma and Kisangani. The culprits are already well-known to the President and its part of the reason why he wants some people not only knifed but also prosecuted. The President’s investigators are also appalled as to why officials who are funded to undertake such very expensive trips, relating to opening of new routes, are never required to prepare mandatory briefs reporting progress to their superiors to guide subsequent decision-making.

THE DTB SAGA

The fixed deposit account the airline controversially opened and has been operating in DTB Bank is another line that is being inquired into. That billions have always been kept on that account without securing proper authorization and yet the resultant interest has always been transferred to a private bank account belonging to one of the suspended officials and thereby occasioning financial loss to the airline company.

There are also claims that extreme fraud has been committed around ticketing processes whereby some staffers, with godfathers in top management, have been reporting much less sales than they realize from making Uganda Airlines-related sales. This has been common at the outstations in countries abroad where preliminary findings show an average of $30,000 has been getting siphoned and shared by officials per month. As Muleya alleged in his dossier to the President, insiders are already saying such fraud would never be unearthed because external auditors would obtain financial gratifications to cover up everything.

INTROVERTED CEO

The secretive and introverted approach with which Muleya has been conducting the airline’s business is equally being inquired into. That he distrusted his staffers and seldom spoke to anyone. He would enter the building and go straight to his CEO office only to drive out alone during lunch lime. The ideal thing would have been a CEO who is very interactive yet in his case, Muleya never moved out to any of the outstations to interact and get direct feedback from his more than 400 employees (and still growing).

The well-earning Zambian was so reclusive that even during what he called a thanksgiving party at Anderita Beach, not more than 20 Uganda Airlines employees were invited. He believed Ugandans hated and distrusted him and he equally resented and despised them. Close pals say this apprehension towards Uganda and its people is the reason Muleya considered investing in Nairobi more appropriate than Uganda whose government has been paying him a net monthly salary of $20,000 (roughly Shs80m) without imposing any work-related targets for him.

He was also allocated a brand new V8 besides housing and other generous allowances. With exception of a certain cabin crew babe, first pilot Alex Kakooza, Chief Pilot Michael Etyang and junior pilot Kenneth Kiyemba (who for being very powerful many mistook to be a member of the First Family), there aren’t many Uganda workers at the airline who Muleya allowed to be close to him in anyway.

Hailing from Mukono/Kyaggwe, Kenneth Kiyemba distinguished himself as a very powerful man in a multiplicity of ways. Married to the very beautiful Isabella Namubiru, Kiyemba always drove posh cars which many of his peers could only fantasize about. Despite having lower qualifications (Commercial Pilot License), Kiyemba (barely in his 40s) was feared and envied by more senior pilots certified at the rank of Air Transport Pilots License (ATPL).

He easily accessed CEO Muleya some of whose supporters believed that to increase his chances to ever get confirmed in the CEO position, Kiyemba is one of the power brokers who had to be very happy with him. One of the sources we spoke to for this article casually asserted that the controversially very powerful Kiyemba would summon anyone from the Board Chairman to the lowest person at the airline.

Notwithstanding his being a relatively lower-ranked employee, Kiyemba was richer than most of his superiors. Beyond the fast cars, Kiyemba’s riches manifested in the posh residential properties he owns in Akright City and Gerenge-based Pearl Malina, a very opulent residential estate belonging to Kenyan businessman Chris Kirubi. One of his luxurious homes has chopper-landing facilities on top implying a chopper can anytime safely land on top of his house. The investigators will also be inquiring into the source of his power and wealth at such a very young age. As a young budding pilot, Kiyemba, who sources described as very entrepreneurial and vastly connected, earns a net pay of $5,000 (about Shs20m) per month.

Yet there are a couple of other things being inquired into including the millions that were lost as a result of millions of Covid19 prevention-related masks being procured. And Cabin Crew staff Julian Otage, a blue eyed girl for Mr. Muleya, is among those who the investigators will have to interact with to dig up the relevant info regarding this masks procurement.

She is in her 50s and the circumstances of her recruitment into the airline are equally being inquired into. The Shs300m which some officials are alleged to have extorted from a renowned Kampala advertising agency at the beginning of April (but which eventually didn’t get any business) is equally being inquired into. One of the Board members threatened to fire the procurement officer who objected to this deal on grounds that the service provider hadn’t been properly procured. “We shall change the organogram to introduce higher level jobs in that PDU and render you powerless if you are joking with some of us,” the Board member reportedly threatened the very principled procurement man who eventually resigned saying the pressure was becoming too much.

There are also claims that desire for money prompted the nascent company officials to recruit more staff numbers than would be ideal. This is the reason why some of the staffers, especially pilots, were recruited and are on the payroll earning monthly salary without ever doing any work for the company. Even when there aren’t that many, some pilots don’t even know each other because some colleagues are on payroll without ever coming to do any actual work. It’s also true the HR never calls meetings nor send out memos to introduce new staff joining the airline. “We are remaining open-minded on everything and our suspicion is that there could even be ghost employees who are on the payroll when they actually don’t exist,” says a member of the President’s investigations team.(For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994, 0779411734, 0200900416 or email us at mulengera2040@gmail.com).

 

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