Apprehend people behind police aircraft debacle

Police’s PI80 Piaggio Avanti II that was acquired at a cost of $7,840,000 (Shs30.3b). PHOTO/COURTESY/ POLICE X HANDLE. 

What you need to know:

  • For one, why was there an absence of a comprehensive appraisal of the business undertaken in the purchase of the Avanti?

For five years, an executive/VIP light transport aircraft that the Uganda Police Force (UPF) in its wisdom opted to add to a three helicopter-strong air fleet has wasted away at the airport apron in Entebbe.  

When the Force bought the Piaggio P180 Avanti, it had long come to the conclusion that nine-seater (excluding crew) fixed wing aircraft with a pressurised cabin would vastly improve its policing work.

It did not occur to the Force’s top brass that the propeller-driven aircraft in question has luxury written all over. 

Tailored for executive transport, landing and taxiing of the Avanti can only be on human-made runways. When the UPF shelled out $7,840,000 or about Shs30 billion for its Avanti, it envisaged the aircraft landing and taxiing on the several natural runways that dot the country.  Per a statement released last week, the utility the Force had in mind for the Shs30 billion-worth addition to its air fleet was varied. This included, among others: “anti-terrorism roles, aerial patrols, search and rescue, rapid response and troop transportation, aerial surveillance for pirates and other criminal elements, aerial assault, insertion and extraction, VIP transportation, medevac and casevac.”

All of this was of course brought to a screeching halt, the like of which would be fashioned when an Avanti attempts to land on a natural surface.

The net result was the UPF not only flying its prized possession for the whole of 117 kilometres across five years, but also contemplating selling it at half price (Shs16 billion).

While Christmas might come early for a buyer, this sorry episode—we reckon—is both shocking and illuminating. It principally illuminates all that is wrong with Uganda by revealing an alarming disregard for due diligence.

We consequently join millions of Ugandans in expressing utter shock as to how the Force ended up with a liability that was initially deemed to be an asset. We cannot help but wonder if indeed any due diligence was undertaken.

It is utterly shocking that this rather mundane best practice eluded officials in the top echelons of the Force. To compound matters, the casual manner that the UPF has spoken to having potentially burned their way through Shs14 billion from the taxpayer is at once disturbing and nauseating.

The Force has articulated its narrative as if this was not an eyebrow-raising deal to begin with. It is as if getting half price for an aircraft that was ill-advisedly purchased will repair the damage. Since it will not, it is useful to ask a few questions.

For one, why was there an absence of a comprehensive appraisal of the business undertaken in the purchase of the Avanti? In trying to justify the choice, surely the UPF should have tried to establish the assets and liabilities of adding an Avanti to its air fleet. 

Another question is: was Avanti’s commercial potential evaluated? If not, will the person who is supposed to run point on this be reprimanded in some form or manner? We believe that [in]actions have consequences, especially a mistake worth at least Shs14 billion. It cannot be business as usual as seems to be the case.