Prosecution On The Table For Former Uganda Airlines Management

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has ordered the dissolution of the board of directors for Uganda Airlines. The move comes following a widespread investigation that revealed issues of corruption, mismanagement, and collusion. President Museveni has ordered the IGG to consider prosecuting some of these officials.

Uganda Airlines
Uganda Airlines officials are facing prosecution. Photo: Getty Images

Uganda Airlines board has a week to explain itself

Following an investigation, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has dissolved the board of directors of Uganda Airlines and is seeking to prosecute a number of top officials. Former directors and executives reportedly have until the end of this week to state their case; otherwise, they could face prosecution.

Calling the board “dysfunctional, if not incompetent,” President Museveni identified 14 charges of corruption, collusion, and mismanagement against the board. Six board members led by former Minister Prerez Ahabwe are under scrutiny: Benon Kajuna, Godfrey Ssemugooma, Catherine Asinde Poran, Charles Hamya and Rehema Mutazindwa. A number of other senior managers are also in the spotlight.

Accusations include cases of extracting money from applicants for jobs at the airline, as well as giving preferential recruitment treatment to relatives and friends. There are also accusations of jobs being given to unqualified pilots, ghost workers being kept on payroll and procurement contracts being bungled.

Uganda Airlines
Uganda Airlines was relaunched in 2019. Photo: Getty Images

The list of allegations runs much longer than this, too, ranging from bribery to ignoring security vetting. The President has handed over the matter to the Inspector General of Government (IGG) with a view to pressing for prosecution of the involved parties. In a letter seen by the Daily Monitor, Museveni said,

 “All disciplinary, dismissals, termination of contracts, prosecutions and interdiction should be carried out expeditiously and following legal procedures. All implicated officers should be referred to the IGG for prosecution and possible recovery of public funds.”

In addition to this, the President has ordered a review of all the contracts relating to the airline, ranging from catering services and uniforms to parts and fuel suppliers. There is also a headhunt on for a commercial director to lead the airline out of its troubles, and to restructure its procedures to bring it in line with government guidelines.

Airbus pilots not qualified

One of the most disturbing elements of these allegations is the accusation that Uganda Airlines fast-tracked pilots who were used to flying the CRJ to begin operating the much larger Airbus A330-800neo. The airline has two such widebody jets, delivered in December last year and January this year.

Uganda Airlines A330 neo
The airline has been accused of letting unqualified pilots train to fly the widebody. Photo: Airbus

The Daily Monitor states that a manager at the airline approved pilots who had less than 500 flying hours to undertake Airbus training. This is a significant breach of policy, and risks the safety of passengers onboard. Sources also told the publication that pilots who had failed simulator training had been rostered to fly the widebodies, putting passengers at unnecessary risk.

Uganda Airlines was officially revived in 2019, with a maiden flight of the resurrected carrier to Nairobi that August. The airline had been liquidated in 2001 with heavy debts, but there were high hopes for the revived carrier. However, its first full year of operations saw it post a loss of UGX 15 billion ($4.2 million), and the following year that widened to UGX 102 billion ($28.8 million).