The government has terminated the contract of the chief executive officer (CEO) of Uganda Airlines Cornwell Muleya and other top managers.
The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Works and Transport Waiswa Bageya says that the decision was taken on Friday by the interim board. Works minister, Gen Edward Katumba Wamala suspended Muleya and 12 other top officials on April 21, 2021, on the orders of President Yoweri Museveni to pave way for investigations into allegations of financial mismanagement, collusion, and nepotism in staff recruitment among other issues.
The other affected top managers included finance director Paul Turacayisenga, Rogers Wamara the director of commercial and procurement manager Moses Wangalwa. Others are; sales and marketing officer Deo Nyanzi, Andrew Tumusiime (senior administration manager), Harvey Kalama (ground operational manager), Bruno Oringi (safety manager), Michael Kaliisa (quality manager), crew training manager Juliet Otage Odur and first officers Kenneth Kiyemba and Alex Kakooza.
Museveni also directed the disbandment of the Pereza Ahabwe, the chairperson board of directors. As a result, an interim board of directors chaired by Bageya was put in place to oversee the airline. After nine months on suspension, Bageya says the interim board has decided to terminate the CEO’s contract and that of Wamara.
Bageya however said the other managers and officers have either been terminated or reinstated while two are still on suspension pending vetting from security agencies and confirmation on whether or not they passed technical training. Bageya said the Inspectorate of Government had also picked interest in the allegations against the suspended staff.
“We have concluded the case against most of the suspended officials administratively. But we are also waiting for the decision of the Inspector General of Government on the matter.
“I cannot disclose the reasons for the CEO’s termination right now because the IGG is still conducting investigations. But the interim board of directors decided to terminate his contract because the allegations against him were substantial and he was found culpable.”
Muleya, Wamara, and other affected staff by the time of filing this report had not yet commented about this development. Bageya however says the terminal benefits of those fired will be paid. The total payment figure remains undisclosed.
The ministry hired Muleya in September 2019 and renewed his contract three times before he was suspended. His latest contract was renewed in 2021 with the expiry being in September 2022.
Muleya, a Zambian, ventured into aviation in 1995 as general manager and CEO of Air Botswana Corporation for eight years, moved on to Air Mauritius, and worked as CEO for Zambezi Airlines Ltd and ALS Limited in Kenya. Then, he was contracted as CEO of Air Uganda in 2013. He has thereby worked in aviation for over 23 years.
The interim board’s decision comes weeks after Auditor General John Muwanga, noted in his latest report that Uganda Airlines is losing billions due to the delayed conclusions of the suspension cases. Muwanga noted that the suspended staff remained on the same terms of the contract and those acting in their positions “receive extra pay implying double payment for the same position.
As a consequence, the company has lost Shs 2.3 billion from May to November 2021. Sources at the airline indicated that Muleya earns over Shs 50 million every month while top managers earn more than Shs 40 million monthly.
Bageya confirmed that Muleya has been earning Shs 120 million as his monthly gross salary. Gen Katumba appointed Jenifer Bamuturaki Musiime as acting CEO and other staff to carry out roles of the suspended managers in May 2021. Musiime had earlier worked at Uganda Airlines as the commercial director but was dismissed over corruption allegations.
Bamuturaki in an acting position has been earning close to Shs 60 million monthly gross salary while Muleya continued to earn his monthly salary resulting in double payment, according to the auditor general. Bageya says the shareholders will present a list of board of directors for approval in the cabinet next week.
The government revived the national carrier 2019 to lower transport costs, boost tourism and business opportunities for Ugandans. Registered as Uganda National Airlines Company Ltd (UNACL), the airline is under the joint supervision of the ministries of Works and Finance, which own 50 percent shares each. It currently has over 300 staff including top managers who are mostly in acting positions.
In October 2021, Finance minister, Matia Kasaija said that the shareholders had made the mistake of appointing an incompetent board of directors and managers. He said that the two rocky years of the national carrier had largely been a result of the appointment of the board directors and managers without experience in the aviation industry. Kasaija however said that the shareholders would resolve the corporate governance and management issues by mid-2022.