UTL was sold to a broke investor, Minister tells Parliament

A Nigerian telecom company, Taleology Holdings GIB Ltd that was awarded the contract to revamp Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) has proved to be too broke and has thus pulled out of the venture.

But what is worrying is that the government cannot procure a new investor since it lost control of UTL, the State Minister for Investment and Privatization, Evelyn Anite has told Parliament.

Anite opened up to the MPs on Thursday after Aringa South MP Alioni Yorke Odria tabled documents before Parliament indicating that government’s efforts to carry out accountability audits in UTL have been blocked by the Administrator whom he described as an illegal operator.

Anite in 2017 appointed Bemanya Twebaza, the registrar general at Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) as the administrator of UTL as government undertook efforts to save it from being liquidated.

Government holds a 31% stake in UTL while Taleology Holdings GIB Ltd took over the 69% stake previously held by Ucom Ltd, a company owned the Libyan government’s investment arm.

Taleology was contracted in October 2018 but pulled out in February 2017 after failing to invest Shs 268 billion as per the contract giving Bemanya opportunity to reassume his administrator roles since his appointment hadn’t been revoked.

According to Anite, Twebaze has since failed efforts to have UTL operations audited by the Auditor General John Muwanga saying that he can only report to court.

In his submission to Parliament, Odria said that UTL currently has creditors of over Shs 534 billion including pensioners, loans and others.

He said that despite reports indicating that the Company is making profits, the administrator is not giving way for any accountability from September 2017.

Responding to queries by MPs, Anite revealed that she met with Attorney General William Byaruhanga, Finance Minister Matia Kasaija and Secretary to Treasury Keith Muhakanizi to forge a way forward on how to get accountability from UTL administrator.

She says that in January this year, the Finance Minister wrote a letter to the Auditor General John Muwanga demanding an audit to be carried out on UTL having gone under administration.

According to Anite, the AG wrote back saying that he could not audit the company because it was a court led process.

“We wrote to the Auditor General to audit UTL administration, but he said he is unable to audit UTL. Since UTL is under Finance ministry, we decided to get internal auditors to audit the company, but the administrator said he cannot allow any internal auditors to audit them and that they can only account to court. We wrote to the Attorney General who asked for more time to study the law on if or not we can audit the company,” Anite said.

Anite also explained how the Taleology Holdings GIB Ltd was awarded the contract in October 2018 to manage UTL over the State-founded Mauritius Telecom which had financial capability and muscle to run the company. She said that contracting Taleology was based on its higher proposal to invest in the company.

She said that for not having money to invest in UTL, Taleology technically left shortly after it had been contracted but what is perturbing government is that it does not know the status of the company and how it is operating.

“According to the terms, the investor; Taleology Holdings GIB Ltd was supposed to have paid the debts in the first 3 months but they did not do so. So it was a white elephant; Taleology did not have the money to invest in UTL. Now we have gone back to drawing board to invite new investors unfortunately we don’t know the status of this company,” Anite told MPs.

Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga noted that Parliament has previously made recommendations about UTL demanding that government presents a Treasury Memorandum on resolutions made about UTL.

Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal further revealed that the administrator has failed to comply with all regulations of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and that there was a need to terminate the administrator’s contract immediately.

Kasilo County MP Elijah Okupa questioned the process which awarded the contract to Nigerian Company, Taleology Holdings GIB Ltd demanding that the Auditor General carried out a forensic audit on UTL.