Uganda Airlines’ CEO Questioned Over Qualifications

The CEO of Uganda Airlines, Jennifer Bamuturaki has been questioned over her qualifications, with a parliamentary committee claiming she does not have the requisite level of education to be appointed CEO of the airline. Bamuturaki says she is qualified and experienced to run the airline. She has been asked to produce a CV to check that she meets the standards required.

According to the job requirements, the airline’s CEO should hold a bachelors degree in any field as well as post graduate training in administration or business. They should also have at least a decade of experience in aviation at a senior level. Members of Parliament claim that she only holds a BA in Social Works and Social Administration, and lacks any post graduate training. Although she does have 12 years of experience in hospitality, her experience di lei in aviation is lacking.


Along with other senior officials from the airline, Bamuturaki appeared before the Uganda Parliament’s Committee on Commissions, State Authorities, and State Enterprises (COSASE) chaired by Nakawa West Member of Parliament, Hon. Joel Senyonyi, on Wednesday 17th August 2022 to respond to queries in the Auditor General’s report for the year 2021. During the interrogation-style meeting, the airline boss told the Public Accounts Committee that she is skilled, experienced, and qualified and that is reflected by her work at the airline so far.

Bamuturaki did not apply for the CEO’s position. Photo: Getty Images

In Bamuturaki’s defense, she said she did not apply for the job. Whether she had pursued a relevant course or had the minimum required credentials did not really matter then. She was headhunted. She told the committee,

“The day I wanted to apply for the job was the day I was appointed.”

Speaking to the press after appearing before COSASE, she said that, together with her team and their combined 100 years of work experience, they have what it takes to run the airline. That, according to her, is why the airline has not dropped out of the sky.

Ongoing loss making

Since its revival in 2019, Uganda Airlines has so far had three acting Chief Executive officers; Mr. Ephraim Bagenda, Mr. Cornwell Muleya, and its current chief Ms. Jennifer Bamuturaki Musiime. The company’s leadership has been infested with a sequence of negative stories attached to corruption and mismanagement of funds. None of the leaders has operated in a surplus budget.

In its first year of operations, Uganda’s flag carrier made a loss of 102 billion shillings ($ 27 million). In the second year, the loss margin grew to 164 billion shillings ($ 43 million) and by its third birthday di lei, it was floating in a 232 billion shilling ($ 61 million) loss. The losses incurred between 2019 and 2021 are somewhat justified because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The huge loss in the financial year 2021-2022 is what has raised eyebrows. This was supposed to be recovery time!

The airline continues to be loss-making. Photo: Airbus

The operations audit that revealed the last loss is what tickled the curiosity of the Committee on State Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) to probe into the matter. They wanted to see if they could get their hands on the cause of the increasing losses being suffered by the airline.

High wages and salary disparities at the airline

In addition to the current CEO’s qualifications and experience inquiry, the Public Accounts Committee also shed light on the airline’s staff structure after it emerged that several employees were being paid exorbitantly. According to the Auditor General’s report for the financial year that ended in June 2021, the CEO earns 87 million shillings (approximately $ 23,000) while the Chief Financial Officer earns 73 million shillings (approximately $ 18,000).

COSASE chairperson, Hon. Joel Senyonyi, also noted that there were salary disparities among administration, pilots, and cabin crew. He questioned why employees in similar positions earned different figures. He said,

“It would have been okay if the airline was making a profit. Instead, it made a loss of UGX 164 billion in the financial year 2020-21, and, yet people are being paid over UGX 80 million. “

With significant losses to account for, the salaries of executives are being questioned. Photo: Uganda Airlines

CEO Bamuturaki countered by saying that they are working on reviewing the salaries and are currently in the process of conducting an audit. On the issue of salary disparities among the pilots and cabin crew, she said that the airline has two aircraft types whose employee wage structures vary. Barbara Mirembe, a member of the Uganda Airlines Board, also added that the salaries have been reviewed stating that no official is currently earning as high as UGX 80 million ($ 21,000).

The question of qualifications of top officials at large companies has been raging for years with an emphasis on what the Board of Directors of a given industry giant should base on to ensure that the right personnel is appointed to the big positions.

Presidential appointment

According to COSASE chair, Hon. Senyonyi, although the Board of Directors at the airline had embarked on a search for the position of CEO of the company – for which 40 candidates had applied – the process was halted following a presidential directive. This directive instructed the appointment of Jennifer Bamuturaki.

Senyonyi then tasked the board to explain the irregular recruitment of the CEO who worked as an aide to the former acting CEO, Captain Steven Wegoye. Herbert Kamuntu, a board member representing the Board Chairperson at the meeting, responded,

“A consultancy firm was hired to put out the advertisement and while the process was ongoing, we were told that this might be a quicker way to confirm the acting CEO.”

Samson Rwahiire, another board member at the airline, stated that what transpired was not irregular, adding that even in international recruitment at airlines, recruitment processes can be halted for someone to be appointed.

“We did not have an accountable manager for the airline, and it was affecting us. So, we did not flout any laws, we just implemented a presidential order. “

The MPS then tasked the acting Human Resource Officer at the airline, Jane Nanono, to explain why they considered hiring the current CEO when she seemed to lack the required qualifications. Madam Nanono, however, failed to comment on the matter stating that she was not in charge at the time of the appointment. She said Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC Uganda) developed the job specifications which were forwarded to the Board of Directors for approval.

In her response to the committee’s inquiry, CEO Jennifer Bamuturaki said that she has 15 years of experience in aviation under her belt and is well suited for the job.

“The certificates I have from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) if put together, should form a diploma. It does not matter what I did at degree level, what matters is that I have the skill and certification from IATA. “

She added that she is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Administration at Makerere University.

The airline’s CEO maintains she is the right person to run the operation. Photo: Uganda Airlines

The way forward for Uganda Airlines

When all is said and done, reflections are made. Uganda Airlines is in a mess but all can be fixed with the readjustment of the work plan. As the current CEO said,

“What matters (is) to have the right profiles in the right places … Once we have that and with the right skills set, we shall not have challenges because we have the right people who know what they should be doing.”

This is crystal clear and well stated. Truthfully, if Uganda Airlines is to achieve the redemption it so deserves, the recruitment of its leaders has to be done objectively and fully by an external source. No one steers an airline like a personal wheelbarrow and gets away with it. It is, without doubt, going to be of greater advantage if the airline has an aviator to run it. The “right profile” means someone with a firm aviation background, experience (with a clean track record) in the same field, and the will to serve independently. Having the credentials from a related course is simply a plus.

In Gen. Katumba Wamala’s letter (a reference to the Presidential directive), he also recommended that the company considers expanding its operations to more profitable Airbus routes to West Africa (Lagos and Accra), Mumbai, DRC, Khartoum, and, many others. If this is worked on fully, the airline will bounce back stronger.

Focusing on the lesson learned from the saga that is making breaking news is what will help Uganda Airlines. The airline’s Motto is: To be a world-class airline exceeding customer expectations, through high-quality service, global connectivity, and commitment to excellence. If this is going to be achieved, the new Uganda Airlines must avoid what killed the old one. The red flags are clearly visible, just as Dr. Col. Kizza Besigye observed in a tweet.

The history of Uganda Airlines

Uganda Airlines was established in 1976 and started its operations in 1977. It currently has six aircraft; 4 CRJ900 and 2 Airbus A330neo. Its hub is at the Entebbe International Airport. It worked for over twenty years but suffered severe bankruptcy leading to its liquidation in 2001. Plans to privatize the airline hit a dead end since no investors were willing to present their bids and take chances to resuscitate it. Due to mismanagement, in the late 90s, the country’s only airline landed in a delicate cash position and had to be closed.

After borrowing over $ 330 million from Trade and Development bank to top up on the government equity investment of USD70M, the airline started making preparations to have operations again. 18 years after its liquidation, Uganda Airlines crawled back into action and had its maiden flight from Entebbe to Jomo Kenyatta Airport on 28th August 2019.

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