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Parliament attacks govt over Uganda Airlines mess

Uganda Airlines’ first of four Bombardier CRJ-900. The need for more two has brought several questions in the House. (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – The debate on the report by the Budget Committee on the supplementary funding for the two aircraft for the Uganda Airlines was marred with a common chorus from Members of Parliament (MPs) who blamed officials from the Ministry of Works for overshadowing the revival of the national airlines with fraud activities.

Among the politicians that castigated the Executive arm was Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, who even said that had he been the President, he would have seen some officials shown the door for the mess created.

The Deputy Speaker said: “There are contracts and they stipulate penalties, of course, there have been gross errors the handling of documents, running around as if we aren’t thinking. Sometimes you wonder if there is a government and people sitting in it, that is the fact, we wouldn’t be in this situation. It is unfortunate I am not President, I would have sacked a few people.”

Mr. Oulanyah then pleaded with MPs to approve the funding, saying the refusal to do so would mean that Parliament had thrown away the baby (Uganda Airlines) at the backwater. He urged that there have been checks put in place that Parliament can rely on to supervise activities of the airline.

“I have seen recommendations of the Committee, they have put some check processes. These are safety valves which we can activate. Now it is in our hands to make loss of USD27.7m already paid by government or save something,” Mr. Oulanyah said.

Mr. Jonathan Odur (Erute South) asked for the prosecution of the minister of Works Monica Azuba after she was forced to withdraw documents she had laid before Parliament on Wednesday, March 27, saying there is no way such an anomaly would be simply written off by an apology.

“Forgery is criminal and it can’t be remedied by a mere apology. So wouldn’t it be proper that we proceed with the filed documents including the Minister who signed and altered the forms in allotment under our criminal proceedings and systems?” Mr. Odur asked.

Kampala Central’s Muhammad Nsereko proposed a number of proposals saying the Uganda National Airline Company needs a substantive board that is approved by Parliament because the board determines operations of the company.

He also proposed to have an assurance that ground operations at the airport shall be held by Uganda Airlines Company Limited and added that emphasis should be put on purchase of cargo aircraft because the profitability in a landlocked country is based on having more cargo on the aircraft.

“The profitability isn’t only on passengers. The more cargo aircraft we have more profits. As fruit farmers, we are all driven out of business because of the high cost of movement of these goods,” Mr. Nsereko said.

On top of castigating the Works minister, Kasilo County’s Elijah Okupa also blamed the Budget Committee for doing a shoddy job wondering why the majority report had recommended having the money approved despite raising questions on the ownership of the company.

He commended his Opposition counterparts Winfred Kiiza (Kasese Woman) and Joy Atim (Lira Woman) who raised red flags about government only owning two shares in the company and also questions on who the true owner of the company is.

Mr. Okupa said there was need for the Committee to go deeper in its investigations pointing out that recommendations that came from the final report captures 80% of what was in the minority report.

The minister said: “Government needs to do better work. None of the people in the board should appear in the new board. We shouldn’t see them in the new appointments. Disciplinary action should be taken.”

Mr. Barnabas Tinkansiimire accused Ms. Azuba and her team of trying to use Parliament to procure fraud: “We can’t proceed to approve resources when basics aren’t clear. Can we be sure that invoices have been issued to government when they haven’t been laid before the House?”

Ms. Azuba admitted that the registration process had laps and apologized for the errors before she took to the floor to withdraw the earlier documents.

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