Uganda Airlines CEO, Jenifer Bamuturaki (inset). PHOTO/COURTESY 

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Bamuturaki’s rise and fall, and rise at Uganda Airlines

What you need to know:

  • Despite previously being at logger heads with the national carrier top management, she has returned to the helm. 

Jenifer Bamuturaki’s first stint at Uganda Airlines as commercial director was brief—seven months— and controversial.

After six months on the job, the airline’s previous embattled board led by former Rubanda East MP Perez Ahabwe, sitting on October 24, 2019 terminated her on, among other grounds, poor performance and conflict of interest.

In a nick of time, Ms Bamuturaki was having the last laugh. With the [in]visible hand of State House, she bounced back at the national carrier in May 2021, first as aide to the interim chief executive officer, Capt Steven Wegoye, and subsequently as acting CEO and part of the team superintending over investigations into the long-running mess at the airlines.

Last week, Works and Transport minister Gen Katumba Wamala confirmed her as the Uganda Airlines CEO barely a fortnight after the consultant—PricewaterhouseCoopers—hired by the ministry to lead the search process to fill the position had called for expression of interest from suitable candidates.

According to the government, PricewaterhouseCoopers was paid more than Shs98 million for its consultancy. 

The Uganda Airlines CEO earns Shs60m monthly, while their personal assistant gets Shs4m.

Ministry of Works officials declined to discuss in detail the decision to hire someone whose past track record is debatable.

“Dynamics change. Even you, you could be appraised differently by your supervisors,” Mr Bageya Waiswa, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, said.

The former board terminated Ms Bamuturaki on basis of her probationary appraisal report by her then supervisor, the embattled former CEO Cornwell Muleya.

The Inspectorate of Government on June 21 arrested Mr Muleya for snubbing summons as part of the ongoing investigation into allegations of corruption and mismanagement of the national carrier since it was formed three years ago.

Mr Muleya appraised Ms Bamuturaki as follows; concerned more with politics than role and interest of the airline, works against company, candidate lacks commitment to task and role, works as a lone ranger and pursues her interests instead of task, not-appreciative of digital marketing as main tool for service/product promotion, and not ready with skills for the role in a start-up airline.

Mr Muleya and Ms Bamuturaki first worked together 12 years ago at the now defunct Air Uganda.

The commercial director, according to Uganda Airlines HR manual, has the overall responsibility of every facet of the commercial department and staff, responsible revenue production, provides input at the officer level related to the company, proposes business solutions, ensures the company meets all government requirements in the commercial area, and provides strategic and tactical direction to the sales, marketing and advertising department.

Ms Bamuturaki, according to employment records, was employed in the position on April 23, 2019 and terminated on October 31, 2019.

Upon sacking, Ms Bamuturaki petitioned the labour office in ministry of Gender for unfair termination seeking Shs3b in damages to which the former airline management counter offered Shs1.4b in February 2021 but she rejected it through her lawyers.

This was barely weeks after Gen Wamala had sent the entire management team and the board packing to pave way for investigations into the mess at the national carrier.
On April 29, 2021, she withdrew the complaint against the airline only to be seen again as back in management. Sources cite State House’s involvement  in the matter.

In his 2021 State-of-Nation Address, President Museveni spoke of a new crop officials— “passionists”—“who work for passion, not money”—and indirectly referenced her as “liberating Uganda Airlines.”

Since inception in 2019, Uganda Airlines has been lurching from one crisis to another from in-fights to flawed procurement deals, dubious staff recruitments, among others.

At the receiving of the first two bombardier jets in April 2019, the former board chairperson Gad Gasatura warned about some of these issues which led to the collapse of the first airline started by former President Idi Amin which weathered turbulent times until it was rundown by the current government.

The never-ending crises at the baby national carrier, some experts have warned, are bad for business. Uganda Airlines has had three CEOs and two boards in less than four years of its existence .

The Auditor General John Muwanga named the company among the worst performing state enterprise whose performance was setback by the Covid-19 pandemic for two years. The audit detailed that the company earned $113m (Shs421b) but spent $165m (Shs615b).

“The company only realised $9.9m (Shs36b) (10.8 percent) of the projected revenue of $92.8m (Shs346b). On the other hand, the company incurred expenses that were beyond the planned costs of and its actual revenue,” the audit noted.

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