KAMPALA – The Operationalisation of the Uganda Airline lies in jeopardy after the Parliamentary Budget Committee declined to approved the Shs37b meant to kickoff ground-handling services because of the failure of the Minister of Works and Transport, Monicah Azuba to adhere to Parliament’s directive to appoint a substantive Board Management for Uganda National Airlines Company.
The Legislators on the Committee of Physical Infrastructure has appeared before the Budget Committee to discuss the ministerial policy statement for the Ministry of Works and Transport ahead of tabling of the debate on the appropriation bill on the 2019/2020 national budget.
Mr. Robert Ssekitoleko, Chairperson Physical Infrastructure Committee told his counterparts on the Budget Committee that the Ministry requires Shs37Bn for operationalization of the ground handling ahead of operationalization of the national airline.
However, the Budget Committee members requested for a report on the appointment of the board for the Uganda National Airlines Company, but the Ministry of Works admitted to not have put a substantive board, prompting the Committee to reject appropriation of funds arguing that the current Interim Board is not legally binding and cannot account for the funds.
Mr. Amos Lugolobi, Chairperson Budget Committee said: “Parliament ordered the Ministry of Works up to 30th April 2019 to appoint board for Uganda National Airline and we don’t have any report that the board has been appointed and Parliament directed that if the Board isn’t appointed, the company won’t be allocated funds in 2019/2020 so our job is to put in place what Parliament directed”
He said that although the purchase of more aircraft will continue, the operationalization of the airline will only take place after the Board has been appointed; “The other aircraft will be bought but money for other things will only be appropriated after installing the board. There is nothing bad about appointing the board, they should do it for the sake of the airline because we are all looking for an airline run on a strong foundation. The Minister has to appoint the Board, if the Minister fails, we shall have no choice but reallocate the money to other items.”
Although Mr. Ssekitoleko agreed that there is a need to put in place the board, he warned that failure to have the airline start its operations will cost taxpayers funds; “The moment we delay to put in place this board, it is going to affect Ugandans because the aircrafts will take long to start operations because it is the board charged with overseeing all these activities.”
It should be noted that when the Ministry of Works requested for a supplementary budget of Shs280,046,776,933Bn required as down payment for the first phase of the two 2 Bombardier jets from Canada that would operationalise the highly anticipated revival of the national airline, Uganda Airlines.to fund the purchase of two Bombardier aircraft for the national airline, some of the conditions Parliament put for the approval of the funds was the requirement by the Ministry of Works to appoint a board to run the company.
The directive followed observations from the Budget Committee that scrutinised the supplementary schedule highlighting major weaknesses at the policy-making level which noted that the Interim Board members of the Uganda National Airline Company are also full-time employees of Government and extremely busy in their substantive public offices;
The Board members included; Bageya Waiswa who is the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Keith Muhanikzi is the Permanent Secretary/ Secretary to Treasury in the Ministry of Finance, Laban Mbulamuko is a Commissioner in the Ministry of Finance, Bisereko Kyomuhendo is a Commissioner in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and Capt. Gad Gasaatura (farmer and retired Flight Captain).
The report on the supplementary funding highlighted that it would be difficult to imagine that the company will have a good footing if it continues being managed by this Board adding that even the current management staff are also holding interim positions; putting the company in an even more precarious situation.
Yet still, Parliament was also informed that Capt. Gad Gasaatura who is purported to be the Chairperson of the Board has never been registered with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau in accordance with the Law.
As such, Parliament directed the shareholders who include Minister of Works as well as Minister of Finance to appoint a substantive and competent Board, in a period not less than 30th April 2019 and the Board members must be subjected to a proper test and names presented before Parliament.
In the event this is not done Parliament was to reject appropriating funds to the activities and operationalization of the Company in 2019/2020 national budget.