Government braces for Bombardier surcharges over Uganda Airlines controversy

The confusion surrounding the ownership of Uganda Airlines continued in Parliament today with the government first withdrawing documents of proof of ownership that were tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.

Minister of Works and Transport Monicah Azuba Ntege on Wednesday tabled before Parliament documents to prove government ownership of the airline.

This was after both the majority and minority reports from the Budget committee indicated that government owns only two shares worth Shs 200, drawing questions in regard to who owns the 1,999,998 shares.

Government had up to the end of today to have its supplementary budget request of Shs 280 billion approved by Parliament and forwarded to Bombardier Incorporation, a Canadian multinational aerospace and transportation company which manufactured the four Bombardier CRJ 900 jets that were procured for the revival of Uganda Airlines.

The government has up to March 30 to pay up or risk having the jets sold off upon failing to pay the principal amount and surcharges including parking and insurance fees.

Given the confusion surrounding the ownership of the airline, Parliament declined to approve the money, and referred the matter back to the Budget Committee which had to report back to Parliament within a day.

Members of the Budget committee scrutinizing some the documents the ministers tabled

But more drama was to unfold, first, the Finance, Planning and Economic Development Minister Matia Kasaija who is listed among the directors of the airline indicated to the committee on Thursday morning that he was not aware that he held such a position in the incorporated Uganda National Airlines Company Ltd.

He later told the committee that the documents that were presented to Parliament by Azuba were not “neat and needed to be corrected.”

This was the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) registrar general, Bemanya Twebaze asked Parliament to ignore the share allotment documents that Azuba presented because they are of no legal consequence.

At about 4:30pm, ministers Azuba, David Bahati (Planning) and Aggrey Bagiire (Transport) returned to the committee but still with insufficient documents to show proof of ownership.

Committee chairperson Amos Lugoloobi (Ntenjeru North) asked them to excuse themselves out and present more credible documents. He asked the team to present the entire file as it was presented to URSB during the registration process.

An hour later, they returned with some other documents but without the much needed minutes of the company’s boarding meeting.

Bagiire tried to plead with the committee to approve the money but to no avail.

“We can’t create a precedent that we shall appropriate money to nobody, and then you begin creating a somebody after we have appropriated,” said Kasese Woman MP Winnie Kiiza.

Other MPs such as James Waluswaaka (Bunyole West), Anna Maria Nankabirwa (Kyankwanzi Woman) and Margaret Komuhangi questioned URSB’s credibility given that it had certified defective documents.

It was then that Twebaze pleaded innocence because his organization works on documents as presented to it by the clients.

He said that at the time, Uganda National Airlines Company Ltd is not ready to conclude the registration process.