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Museveni’s style in Bamuturaki case

Tough questions over Uganda Airlines CEO hiring

COVER STORY | THE INDEPENDENT | Embattled Uganda Airlines CEO, Jenifer Musiime Bamuturaki, and by proxy President Yoweri Museveni who appointed her, could be right. Many human resource managers and C-suite material recruiters today agree that experience trumps academic papers.

When recruiting an employee for a manager or director position in particular, it is argued, it is more important not to focus purely on academic qualifications.

As one expert said, “With the continuous evolution of the workplace, managers and leaders need to be able to adapt and transform a business with ever-increasing speed, and need the ability to learn from experiences and apply that learning to new and different situations”.

Focus should be on vital, softer skills required that employees gather with work experience rather than through an academic qualification. These are skills that include communication, organisation, time management and flexibility.

Negative terms such as “diploma disease” and qualification inflation” are increasingly thrown at people like Nakawa West MP Joel Ssenyonyi, the chairman of the Committee on Commissions Statutory Authorities (COSASE), who insist on degrees and diplomas in the hiring process.

Ssenyonyi questioned Bamuturaki’s qualifications for the job when Bamuturaki appeared before the Committee to respond to queries in the report of the Auditor General for the year ended 2021.

The Auditor General’s report cited salary disparities, lack of an organisational structure and continued losses registered by the airline.

“Her highest qualification as of now is a Bachelor’s in Social Works and Social Administration; how comes she was given the job and yet the people she is supervising have masters,” he said.

Bumuturaki responded that she is qualified and experienced to run the airline.

“I am skilled, experienced and qualified and that is seen in my work at the airline,” she said.

She said she has 15 years of experience in aviation that is supported by the certificates obtained from the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“The certificates I have from IATA; if you put them together, they will come to a diploma but I have a degree. It doesn’t matter what I did at degree level, but I have the skill and certification from IATA,” Bamuturaki said. She added that she is pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Administration at Makerere University.

Bumuturaki is not without degrees and certificates but by peddling her experience and skills, she appeared to attempt to downgrade the value of academic credentials in the hiring process. This has in a strange twist created problems for Bamuturaki which the degrees and diplomas are designed to cure, namely, ensuring discipline and fairness in the hiring process.

Degrees, diplomas, and certificates are  also “filtering tools”.  They signal to the hiring entity than an applicant has the required intellectual ability and knowledge for the position.

Corruption allegations

Bamuturaki’s case is important as it highlights a growing trend in hiring of top managers without emphasis on academic qualification which is not appreciated in Uganda.

In many cases determination of the required academic qualification is made prior to advertising the vacancy announcement and there is no possibility to waive the minimum academic requirements after the vacancy has been advertised.

Bamuturaki’s problem appears to be a result of suspicion that she was irregularly hired.

In the Bamuturaki case, to be CEO of Uganda airlines according to the job requirements and experience as advertised, the ideal candidate should hold a bachelor’s degree in any field and post-graduate training in administration or any other business related course.

It also requires at least 10 years of aviation experience at a senior management level, the experience in marketing and commercial aspects of the airlines business including knowledge of airline commercial systems.

Buzaaya County MP, Martin Muzaale, questioned how she got the job without necessary academic papers.

“I used my certificate for bachelor’s degree,” Bamuturaki said, “By the time I graduated, I had received a certificate supporting the BA degree, SWASA).”

“I think we are dealing with a very different person from the CEO of Uganda Airlines,” Muzaale said.

“You are surely a lucky citizen. For some of us, they even ask for baptism certificates,” said Mawokota South MP, Yususf Nsibambi.  He said the committee needs to scrutinise the CVs and qualifications of the Uganda Airline managers to ensure that the airline is in safe hands.

“When the person in charge of the airline comes up with doubtable and questionable responses, then we are worried on behalf of Ugandans as an accountability committee,” he said.

SSsenyonyi asked the board who accompanied Bamuturaki to the Committee grilling to explain the irregular recruitment of the CEO, Bamuturaki, who worked as an aide to the former acting CEO.

Ssenyonyi described how the board had embarked on a search for a substantive CEO by contracting Price Water House Coopers but the process was torpedoed by a directive from President Yoweri Museveni appointing Bamuturaki.

“40 people had applied for the job,” he said.

He said the board presided over an irregular process yet they are supposed to be professional and technical.

Herbert Kamuntu, a board member who represented the Board Chairperson of the airline, confirmed that the recruitment process was short-circuited.

“We hired a consultancy firm to put out an advert which they did, and while we were still going on with that process, we were told that this might be a quicker way to confirm the acting CEO,” he said.

The Committee also pointed at Bamuturaki‘s  Shs87 million monthly salary and said it was high. But Bamuturaki denied she earns that much.

According to the Auditor General’s report, the CEO of Uganda Airlines earns Shs87 million, Chief Financial Officer Shs73 million, Manager Finance Shs58 million and the Director Maintenance Shs80 million. Others are Manager ICT at Shs36 million, Human Resource Shs43 million, Manager Cargo Shs14million, and manager Quality Assurance Shs43 million.

“If the airline was making money it would be okay; we want workers of the airline to be paid but you made a loss of Shs164 billion in the financial year 2020-2021, and yet people are being paid over Shs80 million,” SSsenyonyisaid.

Ssenyonyi was concerned that there are salary disparities for people doing the same job.

“Why some pilots are were getting Shs50 million while others were getting Shs60 million,” asked, “why do some managers get higher salaries than others and why do some directors get more money than their counterparts.”

The MPs also pointed out that Bamuturaki allegedly used her position to influence the award of a contract to the Abbavater Group Limited, a consultancy firm in which she allegedly has an interest to handle ‘bad press’ regarding Uganda Airlines within and outside the country.

When Bamuturaki and the Director of Maintenance at Uganda Airlines, Ephraim Bagenda, who was acting CEO of Uganda Airlines when the contract was awarded, failed to provide details of the process, the Committee ordered them to give written statements with the Parliament Police.

“We are going to have statements extracted from Ms Jennifer and Mr Bagenda with our CID. I am going to hand you over to them so that we capture what you had told us. If it is a lie, that is an offence,” Ssenyony said.

Tough hiring decision

The question of qualifications of top managers of large companies has been raging for years. The question always is on what measure the boards of directors of acompany or the appointing body or individuals should base on to ensure that they appoint a right not wrong person for the job.

In Bamuturaki’s case, to compare with other national airline CEOs, Mesfin Tasew Bekelem, the CEO of Ethiopian Airlines Group, holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering, a Master of Science in Communications Engineering, and a Master of Business Administration degree. He also has wide experience in the aviation sector. Between 2021 and March 2022, he was CEO of Asky Airlines, a private Togolese airline, in which the Ethiopian Airlines Group has 40% ownership and is the largest shareholder.

Allan Kilavuka, the CEO of Kenya Airways, has only a Bachelor of Commerce. He adds a Certificate in Psychology and attendance of courses in advanced management, executive leadership and financial management. His experience in the aviation industry is minimal. He was CEO of Jambojet, a low-cost carrier wholly owned by Kenya Airways from January 2019 to March 2020. Before that, he served in various capacities at General Elelectric and at Deloitte, in their sub-Saharan African businesses.

In an essay in the Harvard Business Review titled “What Sets Successful CEOs Apart”, a C-suit hiring expert, Elena Lytkina Botelho, attempted to offer guidelines on the issue.  Elena Lytkina Botelho is a partner at ghSMART, which advises leading CEOs and boards and is co-author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller `The CEO Next Door’, and co-leader of the CEO Genome Project.

She gave what, in her opinion, are the “the four essential behaviors” that help successful CEO’s win the top job and thrive once they get it.

She said her firm had partnered with economists at the University of Chicago and Copenhagen Business School and with analysts at SAS Inc. and tapped into a database created by their leadership advisory firm, ghSmart, containing more than 17,000 assessments of C-suite executives, including 2,000 CEOs. The database has in-depth information on each leader’s career history, business results, and behavioral patterns.

“We sifted through that information, looking for what distinguished candidates who got hired as CEOs from those who didn’t, and those who excelled in the role from those who underperformed,” she said.

“We found that educational pedigree (or lack thereof) in no way correlated to performance,” she said, “Only 7% of the high-performing CEOs we studied had an undergraduate Ivy League education, and 8% of them didn’t graduate from college at all.”

According to her, their findings showed that anyone looking to hire a successful CEO should not focus on education qualification but look for four specific behaviors instead.  She listed them as the ability to decide with speed and conviction, ability to engage for impact, meaning that successful CEOs, once they set a clear course for the business, they move swiftly to get buy-in among their employees and other stakeholders. Thirdly, successful CEO’s adapt proactively, meaning they adjust to a rapidly changing environment which is important is for businesses and leaders. Finally, successful CEOs must have a track-record for “delivering reliably”.

“Mundane as it may sound, the ability to reliably produce results was possibly the most powerful of the four essential CEO behaviors,” Elena Lytkina Botelho wrote.

“To be clear, there’s no perfect mix of the four behaviors that works for every CEO position. The industry and the company context determine which behaviors and skills are most important in any particular situation,” she concluded.

Bamuturaki’s record

The 47-year old Bamuturaki appears to tick some of the successful CEO boxes. She has a 30-year long career sin the hospitality industry where she started out as a guest relations officer at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel.

For an article in The Observer newspaper, she told the reporter, that her first job upon graduation was as a marketing representative at Alam group, “selling iron sheets and nails” as she put it.

In 2000 she applied for the position of personnel manager at Sheraton hotel. She did not get the job but landed one as coordinator of guest relations.  She later moved to duty management and later to the sales department where she rose to become a sales manager and later director sales and marketing.

In 2004, she resigned from Sheraton to join East African Airlines, where she was country manager for three years before it folded.

She worked briefly as a travel consultant at Itravel before joining Air Uganda, as a consultant. She says she was managing the sales department but her contract was not renewed and she left. She was recalled to become the director sales and marketing.

According to the Observer article, what stands out on Bamuturaki’s career is that she was always headhunted. In 2017 she applied for the job of commercial director when Uganda Airlines was launching.

Commenting on her first job as Commercial Director at Uganda Airlines, according to the Observer article, she said she was struck by the slow pace.

“Before, my entire working DNA was to do things quick and fast and with timelines but at Uganda Airlines, some people didn’t like that, especially directives coming from a woman,” she says.

“Every second matters in the aviation industry and I tend to get agitated when things don’t go according to plan,” she says.

“A mentor advised me when I was taking this job that do not defend yourself, focus on the job, be an eagle and not a chicken because an eagle sees from far,” she said in The Observer story of Aug.12.

And she appeared focused on her job, reading books like God is My CEO by Larry Julian and The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney and Sean Covet.

“I’m a perfectionist and I hate mediocrity. My critics used to say I’m self-centred but I’m now more relaxed and this book is teaching me how to empower others and work through them,” she said, “on a personal note, she is easily frustrated by people who cannot match her ambition.”

She says her motto is “nothing is impossible”.  But as her hiring story shows, justifying some things is sometimes impossible.



  1. Alifunsi Rwakatogoro

    The fact of the matter is that nepotism reigns supreme in Museveni’s administration. No amount of white washing will convince Ugandans that Jennifer Bamuturaki is fit for the job.

  2. She qualified for the job because of her experience she has attained while working in different company’s. The committee should have given her a Chance to explained how the 164million loss came about in auditor generals report. Uganda of this getting a job is best on know who but not know how. It’s a common disease that has spread to all over the management of this country from central to local government. With local government job unless u give out the money or u a related to district service commission personnel. Some thing all district auditors know , but they report to igg or auditor general. Some people always say leave issues of generals to generals. Meaning most of the issues affecting the country, the local man has little control over what is happening.

  3. It’s myopic and absurd when we seek to recruit people with no work ethic,no intergrity, no character but Books. No school teaches about money and some people buy degrees in bed. I am not say that to defend her but as a person who has worked in more than 10 establishments of which i only had one related diploma yet in every place i have gone i have detested the mediocrity of those with “books”, the question i wish to ask some is ‘where you have worked before and in what capacity?” I know Joel, i have dined with him and in my choice i would recruit him for many positions regardless of his books, needless to mention that i don’t even know what he studied, but he is effective. Look at people like Alen Kigina, Amos Wekesa, The Late Bulaim, being a very good CEO is not about books and degrees, it’s the brains, the agility, the keen eye, willingness to take risks and try the impossible and a person that has tried that in different areas can be trusted in any area. Debunk the idea of asking for degrees, go for truck records. Save the nation the complexities and focus rightly as a committee and Shame on you Ugandans who think ‘tribalistically’ and try to tribalize everything. If she has not performed as expected, go ahead,ask her plans, if unsatisfied, asdvise her to step down than trivializing everything because no agency is better in Uganda, even parliament, that is not because all of people there are bad, our systems and people still have a lot to learn and unlearn and she is unfortunate because of the rotten system in the airline she met but i don’t think she is incapable.

    • The academic training may not be including the content that enables one to be a manager, this is what is acquired at internship and In service training

      Diploma holders who have gone for further training should confess that there is knowledge added to what they had prior

      I do not know the lady and have nothing against her

      What is at stake is that she was not vetted ( so a culture being introduced)

      You realise she has attempted to pursue another qualification. In other words she is aware of a requirement that she lacked.

      She may still have scored high in the vetting process. However she did not have the supporting documents of the previous academic record ( the question is why?)

      It looks like other immediate juniors were found lacking too ( does this worry you?)

      Bottom line bosses may be efficient but it is frustrating to engage a boss in the interest of the related job and realise that you are not on the same page!!!

      Let us not glorify lack of requisite qualification, because there is immediate results, what happens in the long term?

      We always remember the lessons from events that culminated in the Tragedy of the blue boat”

    • Forgive our ignorance
      How are employees supposed to be identified?

      Suppose there are over 5 Ugandans with a similar truck record, how do you vet the most suited?

      If degrees can be obtained from bed, what about diplomas? indeed a vetting process can identify this kind of degree or diploma

      I think the discussion should shift from the lady and focus on the diversion from standard practice

      Please forgive us, just in case the Airline is a private institution, where some believe that no one should question their activities.

      We are embarrassed when you mention tribes here, this is not a problem for right thinking citizens for a well done job is a appreciated by every body

      We have come to believe that tribe comes up to fill up gaps.

      All said and done if the checklist for suitable candidate is available, it should be used for identifying problems . You can use these very gaps to improve on the current manager”s standing

      All problems in this country have a factor of flouting the standards, save us from sinking further we may fail to breath

  4. If you have not worked under management that does not follow established standards, you will not appreciate how grave the situation can be

    I take note of a situation where a flight is late because some one has not yet got his allowance
    Who else is not happy on the trip?

    An airline is one place ehere the claim of “this is Uganda should not take place”

    While travelling to Europe, a foreign customer asked about food being served on the flight, he was told it was from Entebbe, he shook his head and opted for bread. This was not the current airline but a reflection of what others know about this country!

    So it is high time that those who have had an opportunity to get exposed to established standards take an effort to talk to the powers that be

    It becomes more complicated when we accept these trends to be normal to an extent that we defend them in public space

  5. She never resigned from Sheraton. Please investigate how she left. Talk to former Sheraton staff to get an interesting story.

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