Entebbe staffer pockets Shs36m bribe to facilitate illegal passenger’s trip to Brazil

Travellers at Entebbe International Airport recently. PHOTO/ FILE

What you need to know:

  • Last week, Mr Vianney Luggya, the UCAA spokesperson, told this publication that they would soon publish a list of people whose security passes have been withdrawn for engagement in extortion and other corruption-related malpractices at Entebbe International Airport.

A staffer at Entebbe International Airport pocketed $10,000 (Shs36m) to facilitate an illegal passenger to travel to Brazil this month, records show. 
Records available to Monitor show that the unnamed passenger had incomplete documents, but a staffer with the National Aviation Services (NAS) asked for the bribe in exchange for getting the traveller on a flight.
The incident happened this month in the NAS passenger handling section. The staffer, whose identity this publication cannot reveal because the list has not been made public by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA), has since been terminated from service.

Three immigration officers arrested at Entebbe after traveler misses flight
The cases of outright corruption at Uganda’s only international airport have riled the public, with the State House Anti-Corruption Unit (Shacu) confirming that it’s moving in to sanitise operations.

“Shacu is involved and is working together with [the directorate of] immigration, police and other stakeholders to handle the various issues,” Ms Mariam Natasha, the spokesperson for the anti-graft body told this publication.
“Investigations have commenced and already some of the suspects are culpable. More information on the investigations will be available in due course.”
Exposing culprits
Last week, Mr Vianney Luggya, the UCAA spokesperson, told Monitor that they would soon publish a list of people whose security passes have been withdrawn for engagement in extortion and other corruption-related malpractices at Entebbe International Airport.
Mr Luggya said he could neither confirm nor disown the list that has 26 persons named, and another 22 only mentioned under one charge, with almost all of them either suspended, terminated or dismissed from service.

Sources say the authorities were moving to expose the culprits implicated in extortion to show that there is no place for the vice at the airport. They also want to, our sources added, restore confidence that has been scratched sore over the last few days as travellers exposed alleged cases of corruption on social media.
Ms Olive Birungi Lumonya, the UCAA deputy director-general, last Friday told a media briefing that from 2020 to-date 26 members of staff from various agencies operating at the airport have been suspended, terminated or subjected to other disciplinary measures.

The country’s aviation sector last week took a beating as several members of the public took to social media with amateur video clips captured using smartphones, exposing different staffers engaged in various forms of extortion.
 “We are not angels and some mishaps happen but we have taken action on errant officers found wanting and we shall continue taking action. We need to work with integrity and honesty,’’ Maj Gen Kasiita Gowa, who heads the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control, said last week.

At the joint media briefing, the officials revealed that one of their staff suspected to be involved in extortion had been arrested on Friday. This was after a video recording showing the staffer bargaining for a bribe went viral on social media.
“The vigilant members of the public shared leading information that enabled us to get clues,” Ms Lumonya said.
Records available to this newspaper indicate that the male staffer in custody was involved in extortion of Shs500,000 in a bid to back a traveller’s passport.

Women implicated
Along with the case of a NAS staffer facilitating an illegal traveller to board a flight to Brazil and Friday’s arrest, this January also recorded a case in which a NAS staffer was involved in extortion to add weight to another pax without weights (weight of the average and traveller and carry-on items.)
The staffer, a woman, has since been terminated from service.
The list of cases of extortion at Entebbe airport over the last two calendar years also shows that women were the biggest culprits, with 17 of the 26 listed.
“We were deluded to ever think that women are not or are less corrupt,” says Agather Atuhaire, a lawyer and journalist.

“These women come from the same rotten society that we are living in and we have enough examples. There are women that have been ministers and CEOs who are not any different from their male counterparts.”
Following the extortion claims, all staff at the airport will be required to wear their name tags for easy identification. We understand that the move is also one of the ways to contain corruption tendencies.

Ms Olive Birungi Lumonya, the UCAA deputy director-general, said the aviation authority had also re-instated a 2021 directive to the airport staff banning use of personal mobile phones while on duty.
“It is only the supervisors that are exempted. While there may have been laxity in implementation of this directive, it is now being re-emphasised and is going to be fully enforced,” she said.
Ms Lumonya reassured the public that all cases and complaints submitted to the UCAA with evidence will be thoroughly investigated and action taken.