MPs propose stringent measures at Entebbe airport

Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa presiding over plenary session on February 1, 2023. PHOTO/ DAVID LUBOWA 

What you need to know:

  • The House chaired by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa tasked the minister to separate  the management of the airport from the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCCA)

Parliament yesterday put the Minister of Works and Transport, Gen Katumba Wamala, to task to explain the alleged corruption at Entebbe International Airport.  
The House chaired by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa tasked the minister to separate  the management of the airport from the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCCA). 
The lawmakers also asked the minister  to provide regulatory oversight instead of getting involved in day-to-day management of the airport.
Last week, Tayebwa instructed the minister to present a statement on the allegations of corruption at Entebbe airport. 

Gen Katumba complied with the directive and presented a statement on the recent events at the airport that cast the only international air gateway of the country in the wrong light. 
Gen Katumba explained that the revelation of corruption at the airport was an eye opener, which in turn led to many positive changes. He, however, said the issue of corruption is not only at the airport, but national crisis that must be confronted head on.
“It is not only at the airport, every institution has the same problem. So, we need to address moral decay as a requirement,” Gen Katumba said.
He added that measures have since been put in place. He said the joint security meeting held on January 17 resolved that effective February 10, departing passengers will access the airport using the new remodified passenger terminal building.
He also said operations at the airport shall be harmonised with different stakeholders to create smooth operations, unlike in the past where each entity tried to extort through the unsuspecting passengers.

“This will provide an organised and synchronised facilitation process for travellers by reducing duplication of roles, multiple checks or desks before a passenger accesses the check-in counter,” Katumba said.
The minister also said the labour desk and aviation police at the airport, who have been withholding travel documents from passengers without following proper procedures, have been stopped.
Legislators, however, demanded that an overhaul of the entire operations be done so that corrupt officials are routed out.

A file photo showing travelers arriving at Entebbe International airport in Uganda recently. 

Mr Dan Kimosho, the Kazo County Member of Parliament, said the corruption at the airport is deeper than the projection on social media. He said passengers have been losing a lot to the airport staff and others.
Gen Katumba said while some members of staff had been reprimanded, others were transferred, especially those that had overstayed at the airport.

Mr Jonathan Odur, the Erute County South legislator, said transferring the culprits will not solve the problem. He said those implicated in corruption must be fired and handed over to law enforcement agencies to be prosecuted.
“The people who were supposed to be doing the work were sleeping on their jobs; that you are just transferring people who were responsible for these messes, is one of the weaknesses we have in this country.  Even where you have caught them red-handed, all you are doing is just to transfer them?” he wondered.
Mr Odur also called on the government to separate UCAA from the management of Entebbe airport. He suggested that a separate body be formed for the management of airports while UCAA remains to provide for regulation of aviation activities.
“Enetbbe airport is still under UCAA and yet in other countries, the CAA is different from airports management authority. I advise the government to separate the two because UCAA cannot regulate and supervise itself,” he said.

Gen Katumba responded that it has been difficult to separate UCAA from the management of operations because Uganda had only one international airport. He, however, said with Kabaale International Airport and Arua Airport coming up, government will look into the idea of separating the management of airports so that UCAA remains with regulatory and supervisory responsibilities.
Ms Cecilia Ogwal, the Dokolo District Woman Member of Parliament, said what happened at Entebbe airport is only a small manifestation of what is happening across the country. She said government has weakened all the systems and corruption has now been institutionalised, making it extremely difficult fight.
“Corruption happens when the system is too weak; this one is called institutionalised corruption. In other words, that is our way. If you can’t cough money, you can’t move. Until we deal with deep-rooted institutionalised corruption, we are just scratching the surface,” Ms Ogwal said.