Uganda Airlines, sacked boss set for talks in Shs3.3b case

Mr Cornwell Muleya is seeking Shs3.3b in damages and other costs over illegal sacking. PHOTO | FILE 

What you need to know:

  • Mr Cornwell Muleya, who was sacked as Uganda Airlines chief executive officer, is seeking reinstatement or in the alternative be paid Shs3.3b in damages and other costs.

The Wakiso District Labour Office has set Thursday (April 21) next week as the date on which Mr Cornwell Muleya and Uganda Airlines are expected reach an agreeable position over the an alleged illegal sacking. 

In an April 12 notice, Mr Celestine Muhumuza, the Wakiso District senior labour officer, notified the duo of a mediation that will seek to reach an amicable solution in which Mr Muleya, who was sacked as Uganda Airlines chief executive officer in February, is seeking reinstatement or in the alternative payment of Shs3.3b as compensation for damages and other costs. 

“A mediation meeting with the view of an amicable settlement is scheduled for [April 21, 2022] at 2pm at the Labour Office Wakiso District. Failure to comply, the dispute will be referred to the Industrial Court for further handling,” Mr Muhumuza wrote in the notice.  

The notice comes after Mr Muleya, acting through Muwema & Co. Advocates and Solicitors, petitioned the Wakiso District Labour Office to declare that Mr Bageya Waiswa, the Ministry of Works permanent secretary, acted illegally when he sacked him as the Uganda Airlines chief executive officer without a fair hearing. 

In the complaint, Mr Muleya argues that Mr Waiswa had no powers to suspend or terminate his employment because he was not his supervisor nor a member of the Perez Ahebwa Uganda Airlines board. 

Mr Waiswa, according to documents before the labour office, on various dates issued the former Uganda Airlines chief executive officer with letters that suspended and extended his suspension before he was eventually sacked in February.  

Mr Muleya challenges the alleged actions, noting that they are not supported by any law since Mr Waiswa is not mentioned anywhere in Uganda Airlines governance structure. 

He further alleges that despite bringing the alleged irregularities to the attention of the Uganda Airlines company secretary in various letters, he was eventually sacked without conducting investigation into his alleged malpractices or giving him an opportunity to a fair hearing. 

“At trial, the complainant [Mr Muleya] shall aver that his suspension from work and subsequent extension by the permanent secretary MOWT [Ministry of Works and Transport] was illegal and contrary to the law [because]; the said permanent secretary did not have authority under the governance structure of the respondent [Uganda Airlines] as such powers were vested solely in the board of directors,” the complaint letter reads in part, adding that the suspension also exceeded the maximum period allowed under the law. 

On April 29, 2021, Mr Muleya was sent on forced leave by the then Uganda Airlines chairman Mr Ahebwa, whose board was later suspended and eventually dissolved in August. 

On May 21, 2021, he was suspended for three months, which was further extended for another three months, pending an investigation into serious allegations of mismanagement, before he was eventually sacked on February 15, 2022.

However, Mr Muleya notes that despite being notified that he would have an opportunity to present his defence before a decision about his fate is reached, no hearing was ever organised until he was issued with a notice of termination of his employment contract. 

Therefore, he notes, the failure to accord him a fair hearing contravened his non-derogable right, occasioned him immeasurable loss and damaged his more than 20 year career in the aviation industry for which he will seek damages. 

In a March 28 letter addressed to Waiswa, Mr Muleya had demanded for immediate reinstatement into his job and “an unconditional apology for the material inconvenience, reputational damage and loss suffered”.

He also demanded that he is availed with copies of investigations into alleged mismanagement and proceedings and resolution of the board of Uganda Airlines upon, which a decision to sack him was made. 

However, according to details at the Wakiso District Labour Office, no such details have been availed to Mr Muleya, thus confirming there was never any investigation conducted and thus the Ministry of Works or its agents did not have any material evidence to prove claims of malpractices. 

Yesterday Mr Waiswa told Daily Monitor he had not received the sermons, noting that the matter would be forwarded to the Solicitor General as and when they receive the sermons. 

Uganda Airlines to resume search for new boss 

Government has said the search for a substantive Uganda Airlines chief executive will resume after halting the process due to Covid-19 related disruptions. 

In 2019 government had hired a firm to conduct the search but was halted due to Covid-19. 

Mr Waiswa Bageya, the Ministry of Works permanent secretary, said government was “trying to see if we get a consultancy firm to help in the search and then see how we can move”.  “This exercise is going to be done afresh in about two-three months,” he said. 

In September 2019 government said it would recruit a new chief executive officer to build a highly competitive airline. The process, which had been delayed, was however, interrupted by Covid-19.   

In January 2020 government had identified Profiles International, a recruitment firm, to lead the search but it was not immediately clear if the same company would reconsidered. 

Earlier, Ministry of Works had told Daily Monitor that Profiles International had to first obtain an approval from the Solicitor General before it could sign the contract.

Sources at the Ministry said then the contract had not yet been signed and the process, which had been in the last leg, had been interrupted by Covid-19. Profiles International had beaten three other companies to win the bid.