UGANDA AIRLINES TOP BOSS WANTS UPDF OUT OF THEIR WORK AMIDST FUEL SCAM
By Mulengera Reporters
On Monday 6th January, the Uganda Airlines top management bosses convened a meeting on how to boost their operations in Mogadishu Somalia where the national career currently operates four flights a week. Held at the entity’s temporary head offices in Entebbe, the meeting was attended by among others the Finance Manager Paul Turakyayisunga, Ground Handling Manager Havy Karama, Security Manager Dorcus Amollo and representatives from Favori Handling Company and GSA Light Travel. The two companies handle airport operations in Mogadishu as agents of Uganda Airlines. In total four Somalis managers working for the two companies attended the meeting-each represented by two managers.
According to Turakyayisunga, the chief convener of the meeting, the two companies’ representatives had been summoned to discuss performance relating to their contracts in Somalia where they are hired to play facilitational roles aimed at boosting Uganda Airlines operations. That Uganda Airlines was increasingly becoming dissatisfied with the services the two companies were offering and failure to furnish headquarters with regular reports. Favori is Turkish and UA’s expression of displeasure shocked many because these are international companies with good reputation. Light Travel for instance used to do similar work for Air Uganda and Turkish Airlines. The matter of performance and UA (the hirer) not being satisfied was discussed nevertheless.
But towards the end of the meeting, one of the UA officials announced that the CEO Cornwell Muleya had decreed that Favori was to now be in charge of all operational aspects of Uganda Airlines at Mogadishu Airport regarding security. The official explained that GSA Light Travels too was to step aside leaving the Turkish-owned Favori to be in charge of the entire security operations relating to Uganda Airlines. And that even UPDF, some of whose men had been seconded to Uganda Airlines to help secure the relevant commercial operations at the Airport, were no longer needed. That their services were to be terminated immediately. Reason? That the Uganda Airlines top management had reviewed and realized the allowances that was being given to them wasn’t money well spent. The UPDF men were accused of many things including being nosy and failing to submit regular operations-related reports to the Uganda Airlines headquarters in Entebbe. The official said Uganda Airlines Security Manager Dorcus Amollo was a witness capable of corroborating why UPDF must get out of Uganda Airlines Mogadishu operations.
This revelation and claim shocked the Somalis managers, including those from Favori in whose favor the national army is being sidelined, because according to them UPDF’s prowess remains unrivaled in Somalia when it comes to securing such operations while keeping would-be terrorist intruders at bay. They also wondered why Uganda would wish to be different in the way it secures its airlines operations in volatile Mogadishu at a time the rest of the airlines including Kenya Airways too are secured by the Kenyan national army. In any case UPDF is admired as the best source of security of all the armies operating at the Mogadishu airport yet here was Uganda Airlines top executives demanding for its isolation from their core operations. At this point, the opinion at the meeting got sharply divided with some UA bosses questioning the motive as to why UPDF is being sidelined from Somalia for whose pacification Uganda has sacrificed so much.
Inside Uganda Airlines sources, that are aggrieved by the proposal to throw out UPDF, have since told Mulengera News that in the same meeting, some UA managers disclosed what they have been hearing that some colleagues prefer to operate the Mogadishu operations in maximum secrecy without much scrutiny because its where a lot of kickbacks are being made and shared through often inflated aircraft fuel bills. That, in fact, disgruntled insiders who have always been sidelined from the powerful cartel that shares these kickbacks have since gone as far as petitioning the IGG and the Speaker of Parliament to look into the fuel expenses that the national career company continues to incur to facilitate the Mogadishu flights.
The aviation practice is each time an aircraft or plane lands at an airport, it must fuel before taking off to the next destination. And in the Mogadishu case, Uganda Airlines fills up to 3,000 liters of fuel each time their plane lands at Mogadishu. Given that half of what the GoU pays for the fuel per liter is a result of this deliberate inflation of the prices, the whistle blowers want the IGG and Speaker Kadaga to blow up the racket and have perpetrators prosecuted in the anti-corruption court for causing so much financial loss. At some point during the 6th January meeting, tempers flared to the extent that some managers claimed that desire to cover up this fraudulent activity was the reason some were pushing to have the nosy UPDF boys totally divorced from Uganda Airlines operations at Mogadishu Airport. That the plot to rip off the taxpayer through these inflated fuel expenses was originally meant to be implemented through the Jomo Kenyatta Airport but the move was abandoned after some Embassy officials got wind of the impending fraud and alerted Museveni’s spies in SFC. “It was then decided to implement this fuel price and quantities inflation scam through the Mogadishu operations,” says the IG insider close to the preliminary investigations the Inspectorate has so far conducted on this whistle blower information.
In Parliament, a group of MPs are planning to call a news conference and call for a forensic audit into the operations of Uganda Airlines including the Shs12bn that was fraudulently and wastefully spent on procuring 6m boarding passes well knowing these weren’t a priority for the Airline and would never be used. This controversial procurement happened at a time a one Kenneth Kiyemba was chairing the Airline’s Contracts Committee.
At the prompting of the whistle-blowing aggrieved Uganda Airlines insiders, the MPs are also planning to demand an inquiry into why and how Costalini (a Kenyan Company) came to be awarded the deal to be the fuel supplier for UA aircrafts at the expense of SKA, a British Company that had initially been assessed and recommended as the most suitable for the contract. SKA, whose capabilities had also been assessed and endorsed by the Ugandan security as the best, had been preferred largely because their comprehensive package integrated fueling, security and accommodation for the UA crew members whenever on duty in Mogadishu. And yet that isn’t all. Their price per liter was also competitive and way cheaper than what Costalini charges per liter.
Preliminary investigations reveal that the decision to drop SKA in favor of Costalini was taken without seeking the concurrence of the very top of the Ugandan security leadership even when this remains considered a very sensitive matter given the sensitivity of Mogadishu as one of the more than 7 destinations where Uganda Airlines operates commercial flights. The MPs want the UA management to explain what were the considerations to curiously leave out SKA, which even has state of art labs in place to test the fuel to rule out any adulterations, in favor of Costalini. In fact, even authorities at Port Bell who politically supervise Uganda Airlines had agreed to favor SKA on the strength of its proven track record and history of excelling doing similar work for other airlines.
In fact, Mulengera News asked one of the MPs why UA management would sideline cheaper SKA in favor of clearly more costly Costalini and the MP said “all we are being told by whistle blowers inside the organization is that there is a side contract requiring the fuel supplier to pass on some of the money each time a payment is made but we are going to investigate and unmask whoever is involved in this mess.”
There is also discomfort that Kenyans have been allowed to have too much influence in decision-making at UA and some MPs are reluctant to rule out the possibility that this could be a loophole that competitors like Kenya Airways can use to sabotage Uganda Airlines from within. The MPs have also vowed not to be intimidated but use the Parliamentary platform to neutralize some of the Uganda Airlines managers who have previously been in a habit of intimidating some board members and investigators from IGG that they have deep connections in the military among the Generals, State House and the executive at large.
The MPs specifically spoke of one gentleman, who used to coordinate government relations during the taskforce days, saying he was fond of threatening people by claiming to be closely known by Gen Salim Saleh, the President’s young brother. “We are going to reach out to Saleh and cause him to clarify denouncing this man who is fond of using his name to threaten those calling for scrutiny of the transactions going on at the national airline,” vowed one of the MPs we spoke to for this article. (For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0705579994 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).