What you need to know:
- The airlines director of finance says there were glitches in the system that were exploited by passengers who travelled for free in November 2021.
Lawmakers probing Uganda Airlines have instructed its management to produce the list of people who benefited from a total of 200 voided air tickets and travelled to Dubai, UAE, in November last year.
A voided ticket is one which is cancelled. Once realised, the airline management is supposed to stop its purchase.
Uganda Airlines top leadership yesterday appeared before the Committee on Commissions Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) to respond to queries on Shs498 billion loss that was suffered by the national carrier and other queries raised in the Auditor General’s report of Financial Year 2020/2021.
The Uganda Airlines bosses did not give details of the 200 voided tickets, but they admitted that the irregularity happened, saying it was contained in a preliminary internal report that was generated by the current Director of Finance, Mr Paul Turacayisenga.
“There were some people who travelled with tickets that appear cancelled when they had another that was active. So a number of void tickets were discovered as active ones and [yet] we [had] closed them,” Mr Turacayisenga said.
This was after the committee chairperson, Mr Joel Ssenyonyi, told the Uganda Airlines team that he had been alerted that unknown people were colluding with passengers to defraud the airlines by using void tickets to travel to foreign destinations, especially Dubai.
Mr Turacayisenga said there were glitches in the system that was supposed to transmit details of cancelled tickets to the airport. He said system was being operated on manually and therefore needed to be automated to reflect changes.
“In our situation, we still had some glitches because we hadn’t yet automated that system and there would be a gap that required people to manually close,” he said, adding: “I think some of the passengers knew that window, so they would take advantage [of it].”
Mr Ssenyonyi insisted that such a gap could only be exploited with connivance of Uganda Airlines staff.
“But clearly they were not doing it on their own, they were doing it with your staff, otherwise an individual cannot do it on their own,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.
Finer details on the free tickets could not be furnished to the lawmakers to inform a grounded debate and resolution. Mr Ssenyonyi, therefore, directed the Uganda Airlines team that was led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Ms Jenifer Bamuturaki, to return today with all documents pertaining to the query.
“I am going to give you chance to bring all those documents tomorrow [today] because you carried out the [preliminary] investigations. We shall compare and contrast with what I have,” Mr Ssenyonyi said.
Uganda Airlines team has for more than a month struggled to explain to legislators how a whooping Shs498 billion loss was suffered in three years.
There are also queries over staff salaries, and procurement processes undertaken without complying with the provision of the law.
The lawmakers have also been pressing the Uganda Airlines CEO to avail academic documents that confirm that she attended and obtained a Bachelors Degree in Social Works and Social Administration from Makerere University, copies of which were yesterday submitted at the commencement of proceedings.