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Parliament okays sh280bn for Uganda Airlines planes

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament has approved a government request for a sh280 billion supplementary budget to purchase two bombardier planes from Canada.

The approval of the funds during a plenary session chaired by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah is part of a bigger supplementary expenditure request of sh770.2 billion that government tabled before parliament early this month.

Oulanyah was however not happy with the conduct of the ministers during the process in the past two days. “Let us admit that there have been gross errors. From the speaker’s chair, you wonder if there is a government and  there are people thinking ahead. We wouldn’t be in this situation. It is unfortunate that am not the president, I would have sacked a few people,” he said.

Prior to the approval of the money, legislators adopted a report by parliament’s Budget Committee which recommended that the funds be availed and that the ownership of Uganda National Airlines Company Limited should be transferred to Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) – the business arm of Government.

The shareholders of the company approved by parliament are Minister of Works and Transport (1,000,000 Ordinary Shares) and Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (1,000,000 Ordinary Shares).

Parliament also directed that the shareholders appoint a substantive and competent Board, not later than 30th April 2019 and that the Board Members must be subjected to fit and proper test and names presented before the House.

“In the event this is not done, the House should not appropriate any funds to the activities and operations of the company for the Financial Year 2019/2020. Parliament closely monitors the operations of the Company through regular reporting for example by bi-annual reports,” read part of the budget committee report that parliament approved.

This move followed an observation by the Budget Committee Chairperson, Amos Lugoloobi that the current interim Company board members are full time employees of government with extremely busy public offices and that it would be difficult to imagine that the company will have a good footing if it continues being managed by this Board.

The interim board members of the Uganda National Airlines Company Limited are Bageya Waiswa, the Ministry of Works and Transport Permanent Secretary, Secretary to Treasury Keith Muhanikzi, Laban Mbulamuko, a Commissioner in the Ministry of Finance, Bisereko Kyomuhendo, a Commissioner in the Ministry of Justice and Capt. Gad Gasaatura, a retired Flight Captain.

Lugoloobi also reported that, Capt. Gasaatura who is purported to be the Chairperson of the Board has never been registered with the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) in accordance with the Law.

In addition to the committee recommendation regarding the board, Deputy Speaker Oulanyah said that the substantive board to be named should appear before a committee of parliament and that the ground handling services should be handed to the Uganda National Airlines Company. Currently, the services are handled National Aviation Services (NAS).

Parliament also resolved to have a specific Act on the Uganda National Airlines Company.

During the debate on the supplementary budget request, a section of legislators called upon government to halt the rush to purchase the aircraft for the revival of Uganda airlines.

Buyaga West MP, Barnabas Tinkansimiire argued that much as there are calls for the quick revival of the airline, there is need to wait until the Uganda National Airline Company has sorted out its affairs.

The reservations about the management of the Uganda National Airline Company arose from several inconsistencies, irregularities and errors regarding the registration and allotment of shares for the company that parliament had detected.

Latif Ssebagala, the Kawempe North MP argued that MPs did not need to move in haste before analyzing the management of the company since any mistakes will blow back on the Tenth parliament.

Lwemiyaga County MP, Theodore Sekikubo argued that the Company needs to sort out the basics which he says seem to be missing like the Entebbe Ground Handling Services which is a lucrative business that used to belong to the defunct Uganda airlines.

However, Oulanyah moved to relax the MPs concerns by pointing out that the budget committee report had put checks and balances to avert any impropriety. He singled out the recommendation by the committee to transfer the ownership of the company to the UDC.

He noted that this was a safety valve that should pacify MPs since the committee had suggested that the companies’ budget for the financial year 2019/2020 will not be passed if this is not done.   The Deputy Speaker appealed to MPs to pass the supplementary expenditure since Uganda risked losing US Dollars 27.7 million that was a deposit payment made earlier.

Following several counter arguments Oulanyah and the MP agreed to pass the supplementary request to secure the planes.

Meanwhile, the legislators also approved another Shillings 12 billion for the payment of ground rent arrears to Kampala Archdiocese for the land leased to Uganda Police Force at Nsambya Police Barracks.

The money is meant to enable the Archdiocese to finance the completion of Namugongo Martyrs Shrine in preparation for the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) in July 2019.

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