Parliament seeks tougher action against airport staff

MPs are seen in parliament during a motion to censure minister Persis Namuganza on January 23, 2023. PHOTO/HANDOUT

What you need to know:

  • The Deputy Speaker says the staff accused of corruption should have been arrested.

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Thomas Tayebwa, yesterday lashed out at Entebbe International Airport staff who were dismissed for extortion and other corruption-related offences.

Addressing legislators during plenary, Mr Tayebwa described the airport staff as criminals who should not be free nor be employed elsewhere.

“They are saying dismissed, dismissed, but these are criminals. You dismiss today, they go and get a job in another place and they continue with that kind of habit,” Mr Tayebwa said.

Monitor could not readily reach Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) spokesperson, Mr Vianney Luggya, for a comment on the Deputy Speaker’s call.

The Deputy Speaker said it was “very painful” to watch some of the video clips of extortion exposed by members of the public.

“You could see people crying. Ugandans have been denied a chance to re-enter their country. Others are being denied a chance to go for opportunities, which they have strived to get because someone wants something small to put in their pockets,” Mr Tayebwa said.

Cases of outright corruption at Uganda’s only international airport where the Directorate of Immigration is also actively involved have riled the public.

Aviation authorities have apologised for the extortion mess and revealed that at least 26 employees from various agencies involved in the day-to-day running of the airport have been dismissed since January 2020.

UCAA, the regulator of the aviation industry in the country, has also said it will soon expose the names of the culprits.

Entebbe is the only international airport in the country, meaning air travellers have no other option. In the wake of the damning expose, some members of the public said it was becoming financially more viable to take the long road to Nairobi and board on-route flights from the Kenyan capital instead.

Authorities at Entebbe have since instituted a raft of measures that they hope will check the vice at both the arrivals and the departure sections.

Airport workers facing travellers will no longer be allowed to use mobile phones during working hours except for their supervisors. They will also all be required to wear their name tags at all times.

Ministers ordered to clean up

The Bukooli Central MP, Mr Solomon Silwany, said the problem extended to the immigration offices and asked the Deputy Speaker to order a forensic audit into what he termed as “impunities in those departments.”

“Locally when people apply for passports, there is what they tell you that if you want it “chap-chap” (fast) you pay an additional fee and Ugandans are being extorted. There is a lot of extortion, impunity happening in that department,” he said.

But Mr Tayebwa ordered that the ministries of Works and Transport and Internal Affairs first be given a chance to address the mess before Parliament can seek alternative redress.

“I will need a joint statement from the minister of Works who supervises the [Uganda] Civil Aviation Authority and the minister of Internal Affairs because most of the cases were to do with immigration officers,” Mr Tayebwa said.

The Deputy Speaker, who lauded UCAA for admitting extortion was happening in their house, said the joint statement by the two line ministries will be given priority on the order paper next Tuesday.

Background

Last week, several people took to social media accusing Entebbe International Airport staff of extorting money from them to be allowed to travel.

According to the social media posts, some of the victims missed their flights after failing to pay the bribes. 

In a statement released last week, Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, said it was addressing the issues raised.

UCAA added that it does not in any way condone such acts and that where such incidents have happened, it is “highly regrettable and unacceptable.”

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