The Uganda Airlines chairman has expressed concern over a delayed process in which government is seeking to recruit a substantive chief executive for the national carrier.
Speaking in a telephone interview yesterday, Mr Perez Ahabwe, the Uganda Airlines chairman, told Daily Monitor the process, which started in October last year, has dragged yet the contract of the current chief executive officer, who is holding the position in acting capacity, has only two months to expire.
“I am not happy with the pace at which the Ministry [of Works and Transport] is moving in identifying a firm for us to engage in this [recruitment] process,” he said, noting that they had thought that the process would have been completed by the time the contract of the acting chief executive officer expires.
Mr Conwell Muleya is holding the chief executive officer position in acting capacity.
He had before the launch of Uganda Airlines been serving as a technical adviser and was elevated to acting chief executive officer after, as government, according to sources, sought to recruit a dynamic and vibrant officer to replace the ageing Ephraim Bagenda, an aeronautical engineer, who had before the launch been the carrier’s managing director. Mr Bagenda has since moved to a new position as director of engineering and maintenance.
In October last year, the Works and Transport Permanent Secretary Waiswa Bageya, told Daily Monitor, they had initiated a search process to recruit a firm that would search for a vibrant chief executive officer, who would drive the national airline to desired levels.
Yesterday, Mr Bageya admitted that whereas the process had delayed, the Ministry was on track and expects to have completed the process of recruiting a consultancy firm by the end of this month.
“The process has delayed a bit but we are trying to fast-track it because the board [Uganda Airlines] took a decision. But because they were lacking in capacity, they asked us to support the process. So we put out a tender and I think some four or five companies have responded. But as we were reaching the closure time [this week] for biding, one of the firms pleaded that we give an extension … so we extended it [closure] to January 21,” he said.
After the closure on January 21, he said, the bids will be submitted to the contracts committee that will then evaluate the offers, after which the tender will be awarded to the best firm.
However, Mr Bageya, who insisted that the process would have been completed before the expiry of Mr Muleya’s contract, declined to give details of the firms that have so far expressed interest.
Mr Ahabwe also said it was important that the airline is not destabilised because of delayed decision making at a time when all efforts have been put on building a firm foundation for the carrier to prosper.
“I would not wish to see the airline destabilised at this point in time when we are still building systems and when we have not concluded on the process of acquiring our airbuses,” he said.
Uganda Airlines, according to Mr Ahabwe, is expected to procure two airbuses before the end of this year.
Already, he said, experts from Airbus are in the country to assist in setting up ground for the arrival of the aircrafts.
Making a case for Mr conwell Muleya
Sources within Uganda Airlines, who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely, said whereas government was already fast-tracking the process of searching for a substantive chief executive officer, it was important that Mr Muleya is given an opportunity given his experience in the airline business.
Mr Muleya, a Zambian national, was the chief executive officer of Air Uganda before the airline indefinitely suspended operations on Jul 17, 2014
In October last year Mr Bageya told Daily Monitor the search for the new chief executive officer would not be restricted to only Ugandans.
However, key members of the management team at Uganda Airlines, the source said, have suggested that “as we stand where we are now, getting a new person into that position [chief executive officer] can simply derail the little we have achieved”.
The role of Conwell (Muleya), he said, cannot be wished away because he is the custodian of all the technical aspects of what the airline is currently doing among them, ongoing negotiations.