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Works and Transport minister Gen Edward Katumba Wamala has distanced himself from taking the blame for the controversial appointment of Jenifer Bamuturaki as Uganda Airlines' chief executive officer.

While appearing as a witness before the parliamentary committee on commissions, statutory authorities and state enterprises (Cosase) which is scrutinizing the Auditor General’s Katumba was tasked by the committee chairperson Joel Ssenyonyi tasked to explain why as the overseer and supervisor of the board of directors, he could not advise President Yoweri Museveni when he irregularly directed him to appoint Bamuturaki, even when she lacked the requisite qualifications.

Foreign firm, PriceWaterHouse Coopers (PwC) had been hired to conduct the recruitment process for the CEO at Shs 99m, but Bamuturaki who did not even apply for the job was appointed before the process was completed.

“If indeed she was competent enough, why she was not subjected to the due process which is both legal and fair like the rest?” asked Ssenyonyi.

According to Ssenyonyi, legally binding procedures to facilitate the recruitment of a person to the position of CEO were flouted.

In his response, Katumba said he only wrote to the airline's board to follow the requisite steps to recruit the CEO. Ssenyonyi pressed Katumba to explain if he thinks the board indeed followed the requisite steps to recruit Bamuturaki. However, he said that it would be tantamount to micromanagement and can be misinterpreted to mean interference with the mandate of the board.

“The president wrote in his handwriting a letter stating that he had done due diligence and listed a number of reasons supporting his directive to the airline to appoint Bamuturaki,” Katumba said.

However Ssenyonyi retorted and said; "Honourable minister when you issue a directive, you follow up, you ask for a report. Micromanaging is when you go and do it for them. Here, we're talking about you indicated to them follow a process for this recommended person. I think you're duty bound as a person superintending over the entity to follow up and be sure have they done what you asked them to do, have they followed the process?" said Ssenyonyi. 

But Katumba reiterated that he has no authority to question a presidential directive other than recommending it to the board of directors of the airlines.

"From the institution [army and police] where I came from, we respect orders and respect directives. So I had no reason to disrespect the president's directive. What I did was to write to the board and I told them; follow the process of appointing the recommended person to the position." he said.

But Mawokota County South MP Yusuf Nsibambi reminded Katumba that Uganda Airlines is a limited liability company and not a parastatal in which the government merely has shares among other shareholders. Nsibambi observed that the airline has no article within its articles of association giving powers to the president or the minister to legally appoint a CEO.

“It will be hard for you to attract the confidence of the public you intend to sell shares of the airline to while making illegal decisions that affect the management of the airline like this one...When you subject public institutions which are quasi-private with provisions for the public to invest to presidential directives, you are going to find it hard to keep any private investors because they would want to have a stake in making those management and governance decisions” Nsibambi said.

Nsibambi told Katumba Wamala that it would not be disrespectful to advise the president to follow the due processes even when he has given a directive.

”For the sake of exonerating and shielding both of you if, for unforeseen reasons, the directive yields damning repercussions in the future,” Nsibambi said. By URN/The Observer

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