A parliamentary committee has resolved to summon the Finance ministry permanent secretary and secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi over accumulated debts owed to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).
The Authority is owed Shs 151 billion which it has failed to collect from both the government and the private sector.
Two Kampala law firms have since been retained by CAA to collect the unpaid billions.
On Tuesday morning, the House committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises was left baffled when CAA officials, led by managing director David Kakuba, attempted to explain what steps they’ve taken to collect the debt.
The committee is scrutinising a report of the Auditor General on CAA’s accounts for the financial year 2013/14.
Of the total debt, Shs 54 billion is owed by government ministries and departments, most notably the UPDF, State House, Ministry of Agriculture and the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre.
Civil Aviation Authority offers rental space and air navigation services to various organisations, including the UPDF.
Private entities owe the aviation regulator a total of Shs 103 billion.
The most outstanding debt by a single organisation is owed by the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), amounting to Shs 31 billion.
MONUSCO’s flight and other operations are based at Entebbe Airbase. Payment of its debt is supposed to be remitted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
But MPs were shocked to learn that CAA has no formal agreement for provision of services to government agencies and the UN.
Finance Director Samalie Kisekka told the committee that CAA was not party to the agreement signed between government and the UN.
This caused MPs to question the regulator’s methods of conducting operations.
“Someone does not have an agreement; they don’t know you, how can they generate even the documents to pay you?” Rujumbura county MP Fred Turyamuhweza inquired.
Kakuba told the committee that government departments have persistently refused to sign contracts with CAA and yet
they continue to occupy space at the airport and request for services.
“And yet the solicitor general wrote making it very clear that they must pay for the space they occupy. But they have persistently refused to sign these contracts,” Kakuba lamented.
The Authority’s board approved the engagement of Kampala Associated Advocates, and Kalenge, Bwanika, Sawa and Company Advocates to offer debt collection services, the managing director said.
He told the committee that Kampala Associated Advocates had so far recovered $ 533,577 and Shs 703 million.
Kisekka revealed that failure to collect debts owed by government is a historical problem that has dogged CAA for years, noting that their demand letters remain unanswered.
“What kind of government agencies are these that do not reply letters?” the committee chairman Abdu Katuntu asked incredulously.
Katuntu promised to invite the ministries of defence and finance to appear before the committee on Thursday in order to get to the bottom of the matter.