New Uganda Airlines CEO Grilled Over Qualifications & Pay

New Uganda Airlines CEO Grilled Over Qualifications & Pay

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Uganda Airlines’ new CEO is under fire over her qualifications, even though she never applied for the job. This has to be one of the strangest stories I’ve seen involving the appointment of an airline CEO.

Uganda Airlines has a controversial new CEO

Uganda Airlines is owned by the government of Uganda, and launched operations in mid-2019. The airline ordered two Airbus A330-800neos and four CRJ-900s. Those are some rather odd plane choices for a startup, but I digress…

This isn’t Uganda’s first time having an airline. Government-owned Uganda Airlines was in operation between 1977 and 2001, but it liquidated at that point. Since then, the country has been left without a national airline. A private airline named Air Uganda did operate in the country between 2007 and 2014, but also ended up liquidating. But you know what they say — third time’s the charm.

Admittedly Uganda Airlines didn’t pick a great time to launch in light of the pandemic. The airline has reportedly lost 498 billion Ugandan Shilling since launching operations, which comes out to $131+ million. The airline is now losing hundreds of thousands of dollars per day due to low aircraft utilization and generally bad economics, as the airline has parked one A330-800neo, and is flying the other for an average of just a few dozen hours per month.

In early 2022, Uganda Airlines fired the company’s previous CEO, who was under investigation for allegations of financial mismanagement, collusion, and nepotism in staff recruitment, among other things.

At that point the company’s commercial director, Jennifer Bamuturaki, was appointed as interim CEO. Uganda’s president has recently appointed her as the permanent CEO, but that’s now leading to some controversy among politicians in Uganda.

Uganda Airlines flies CRJ-900s

Government questions new Uganda Airlines CEO

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni recently directed the Ministry of Works to appoint Bamuturaki as permanent CEO of Uganda Airlines, even though she never applied for the job. The company is currently under quite a bit of scrutiny from Uganda’s parliament, given how much money the airline has cost the country.

The latest target seems to be Bamuturaki herself. The issue? Her qualifications. PwC was allegedly paid $25,000 to find a new CEO for the airline, and the government gave a list of qualifications for the role, and Bamuturaki doesn’t meet the academic qualifications.

This discovery came after she presented her resume in front of a government committee. Bamuturaki has a bachelor of arts degree in social works and social administration, while the company was looking for someone with a post graduate qualification.

So, what does Bamuturaki’s resume look like?

  • From 1996 to 2000 she worked at the Sheraton Kampala as a guest relations and sales manager
  • From 2000 to 2003 she worked at East African Airlines
  • She then worked as a sales manager at a travel agency
  • From 2007 to 2014 she worked in the commercial division at Air Uganda
  • From 2014 to 2016 she worked as head of sales and marketing at the Sheraton Kampala
  • From 2017 until 2019 she worked as the director of sales and marketing at Golden Tulip Kampala
  • In 2019 she became commercial director at Uganda Airlines, before being appointed interim CEO, and then permanent CEO

Another point of controversy is Bamuturaki’s salary, as the government panel was looking at salaries at the airline. It was claimed in a government hearing that she earns 87 million Ugandan Shillings per month (~$22,900). Her response?

“I don’t earn what was mentioned yesterday. I earn close to 50 percent of that.”

“No I will not specify [what I earn]. This is what I want to say, 35 percent of all those salaries that we earn goes back to government. I am also a taxpayer. For the record, that is not the money we are earning.”

Admittedly that’s a lot of money by Ugandan standards, though ~$275K seems pretty reasonable by international standards. Never mind that she claims she earns closer to half of that.

Uganda Airlines flies A330-800neos

Bottom line

Uganda Airlines is an airline startup that fired its first CEO earlier this year. The airline has now appointed a new CEO, but she’s under scrutiny from the government over her qualifications. This is despite the fact that she never applied for the job, but rather was appointed to the role by the president.

It’s claimed she’s not qualified because she doesn’t hold a post graduate degree, even though she’s allegedly otherwise qualified. It seems rather ridiculous that this would be what prevents her from being a good fit for the job. Then again, I’m not sure being a marketing manager at some local hotels qualifies you to run an airline either (though she has some airline experience as well)…

So far Uganda Airlines is going roughly as many of us expected when the airline was announced. Who would’ve thought a prestige driven government owned airline startup would have issues?! Uganda Airlines has 99 problems, and I’m not sure one person’s post graduate degree or a salary of a couple hundred thousand dollars is among them…

What do you make of this Uganda Airlines situation?

Conversations (13)
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  1. Emily Guest

    Hints of nepotism, corruption, and ill-planned decisions? Guess they are taking a book out of Trumpism?

    1. JWags Guest

      Its hilarious that people can't see that injecting Trump or Trump-related complaints into everything is just as obnoxious as MAGA loving Trump defenders. As if Trump has a monopoly on nepotism and corruption

    2. Jared Guest

      Definitely agree with you. However, many consider Africa and corruption synonymous, even though the inception of corruption and nepotism is another of the colonial consequences. That impression is also not right.

  2. glenn t Diamond

    The only question is, does anyone really care?
    Corruption and nepotism has been part of the African landscape forever and is unlikely to change.
    She seems very well qualified in her own right to run Tinpot Airways or Hardlyfly Airways.

    1. TravelinWilly Diamond

      “The only question is, does anyone really care?”

      Anyone who doesn’t view the continent of Africa as one entity cares.

      “African landscape” sound ridiculous. Regale us next about the North American landscape with more stupid generalizations.

    2. DCharlie Guest

      @TravelinWilly - had the same thoughts when I read that comment! +1

      Reeks of someone from Trumpistan.

    3. Kent Guest

      I have known a lot of people who love to make such gross generalizations. My fav are the "Asians" or the "Latinos" (hint: anyone who is mildly tanned or can say hola). Just to annoy such people, I just club all 7 countries in NA together. If I speak about any of the countries, I just extend to the North American diaspora. The North American revolutionary, Fidel Castro....

    4. Franklin Guest

      I agree with you here, TravelInWilly. At the same time, I will add that a good many Africans do generally see their contintent as a single entity. References to "African this" and "African that" are common in countries across the continent (in my experience having visited all African countries, and lived in three.) And that includes references to "African corruption." I don't like this kind of language, and I found the initial comment obnoxious, but...

      I agree with you here, TravelInWilly. At the same time, I will add that a good many Africans do generally see their contintent as a single entity. References to "African this" and "African that" are common in countries across the continent (in my experience having visited all African countries, and lived in three.) And that includes references to "African corruption." I don't like this kind of language, and I found the initial comment obnoxious, but I also think that Africans' identification with their continent shouldn't be denied.

    5. Jared Guest

      I definitely agree with the responses to the initial comment to some extent. Cultural identities have layers; the deeper one dwells, the greater the distinctions. Countries in certain parts of Africa certainly share a more unified identify; just like let's say North Americans in contrast to Californians versus Midwesterners. However, having lived in Northern African countries for a long time and having spent a few years in Zaire, Kenya and Zimbabwe, I would say that...

      I definitely agree with the responses to the initial comment to some extent. Cultural identities have layers; the deeper one dwells, the greater the distinctions. Countries in certain parts of Africa certainly share a more unified identify; just like let's say North Americans in contrast to Californians versus Midwesterners. However, having lived in Northern African countries for a long time and having spent a few years in Zaire, Kenya and Zimbabwe, I would say that the latter three identify with the external impression of Africanism much more than countries like Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, and Egypt.

  3. Indopithecus Guest

    Thanks to the much-respected and ever knowledgeable Sean M. for the clarifications. This is the first time I heard of this case but, as an outsider, it seems to me typical of a situation where politicians --- ever self-serving --- are involved in commercial operations of companies. Uganda has been getting some attention lately for its alleged money laundering of assets stolen by poor country potentates and this corruption is indubitably in the mix of...

    Thanks to the much-respected and ever knowledgeable Sean M. for the clarifications. This is the first time I heard of this case but, as an outsider, it seems to me typical of a situation where politicians --- ever self-serving --- are involved in commercial operations of companies. Uganda has been getting some attention lately for its alleged money laundering of assets stolen by poor country potentates and this corruption is indubitably in the mix of this messy cocktail. One does not need a master's degree to be brilliant at running a company; indeed you don't even need a bachelor's. This fuss is, therefore, a ploy by interested parties to nobble someone other than this lady CEO. In other words, there is more to this than meets the eye, IMO.

  4. Petri Diamond

    "I don't earn that much " and "35% goes back to government in taxes." Qualifies as a fulltime politician, degree or not.

  5. Sean M. Diamond

    Both you (and The Monitor) have a lot of half-facts here and only a fraction of the full story.

    The company's "first CEO" was not Cornwell Muleya as is implied. Rather it was Ephraim Bagenda, who remains with the company as Director of Maintenance. Cornwell (who was also the CEO of the former Air Uganda that was shut down in 2014 - there is another long scandal there for another day) was appointed as Acting...

    Both you (and The Monitor) have a lot of half-facts here and only a fraction of the full story.

    The company's "first CEO" was not Cornwell Muleya as is implied. Rather it was Ephraim Bagenda, who remains with the company as Director of Maintenance. Cornwell (who was also the CEO of the former Air Uganda that was shut down in 2014 - there is another long scandal there for another day) was appointed as Acting CEO in 2019.

    Meanwhile, Jennifer Bamuturaki was also hired as the Commercial Director for Uganda Airlines in 2019, but had her contract terminated at the end of her probationary period in 2020 by Cornwell. Supposedly, Cornwell also launched an investigation into alleged irregularities with contracts issued by Jennifer during her time in office. He also allegedly submitted a dossier outlining various irregularities to the authorities for criminal investigation.

    Subsequently, in early 2021, shortly after the Board of Directors had extended Cornwell's contract of employment as Acting CEO by an additional 18 months, the President gave instructions to suspend Cornwell and pretty much every member of the management team except the aforementioned Ephraim Bagenda for undisclosed reasons. The Board of Directors then appointed a pilot, Capt. Steve Wegoye, as Acting CEO.

    Shortly after this, the President ordered the removal of Capt. Steve as well, and also the dismissal of the entire Board of Directors. A caretaker committee of civil servants was appointed as an interim board and instructions were then given for them to appoint Jennifer (who had been dismissed from the company almost a year prior) as the Acting CEO. Jennifer then appointed Capt. Steve as Director of Safety.

    In early 2022, the President instructed that the employment contracts of Cornwell and the other suspended managers be summarily terminated for cause. Cornwell sued for unfair dismissal and claiming various benefits due under his contract. He was consequently arrested and charged with "disobedience". His passport (he is a Zambian expat) was confiscated as a condition of bail and that case is still being pursued through the legal system.

    Meanwhile, a new Board of Directors was appointed in March 2022. The new Board appointed PwC to conduct an international recruitment exercise for a permanent CEO. However, just a few days into this exercise, the President ordered that Jennifer should be appointed as CEO (even though she had not applied for the job) and the recruitment exercise by PwC be immediately terminated.

    Needless to say, there are a number of parliamentarians who are bristling over what they view as an abuse of corporate governance and are consequently grilling Jennifer over the circumstances of her appointment. Like parliamentary hearings anywhere in the world, these often turn into mudslinging contest and Jennifer's qualifications (or lack thereof) have become the current issue. For now though, she is firmly in place and has the support of the shareholder (ie. Government of Uganda) so nothing the hearings come up with will change that.

    Disclaimer : I know both Cornwell and Jennifer and I have had business relationships with both Air Uganda and Uganda Airlines. The above information posted is all available in the public domain and does not include any confidential information that I may be privy to.

  6. AA70 Gold

    I'm trying so hard to get my foot in the door at an airline. Maybe I'm looking at the wrong ones

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Sean M. Diamond

Both you (and The Monitor) have a lot of half-facts here and only a fraction of the full story. The company's "first CEO" was not Cornwell Muleya as is implied. Rather it was Ephraim Bagenda, who remains with the company as Director of Maintenance. Cornwell (who was also the CEO of the former Air Uganda that was shut down in 2014 - there is another long scandal there for another day) was appointed as Acting CEO in 2019. Meanwhile, Jennifer Bamuturaki was also hired as the Commercial Director for Uganda Airlines in 2019, but had her contract terminated at the end of her probationary period in 2020 by Cornwell. Supposedly, Cornwell also launched an investigation into alleged irregularities with contracts issued by Jennifer during her time in office. He also allegedly submitted a dossier outlining various irregularities to the authorities for criminal investigation. Subsequently, in early 2021, shortly after the Board of Directors had extended Cornwell's contract of employment as Acting CEO by an additional 18 months, the President gave instructions to suspend Cornwell and pretty much every member of the management team except the aforementioned Ephraim Bagenda for undisclosed reasons. The Board of Directors then appointed a pilot, Capt. Steve Wegoye, as Acting CEO. Shortly after this, the President ordered the removal of Capt. Steve as well, and also the dismissal of the entire Board of Directors. A caretaker committee of civil servants was appointed as an interim board and instructions were then given for them to appoint Jennifer (who had been dismissed from the company almost a year prior) as the Acting CEO. Jennifer then appointed Capt. Steve as Director of Safety. In early 2022, the President instructed that the employment contracts of Cornwell and the other suspended managers be summarily terminated for cause. Cornwell sued for unfair dismissal and claiming various benefits due under his contract. He was consequently arrested and charged with "disobedience". His passport (he is a Zambian expat) was confiscated as a condition of bail and that case is still being pursued through the legal system. Meanwhile, a new Board of Directors was appointed in March 2022. The new Board appointed PwC to conduct an international recruitment exercise for a permanent CEO. However, just a few days into this exercise, the President ordered that Jennifer should be appointed as CEO (even though she had not applied for the job) and the recruitment exercise by PwC be immediately terminated. Needless to say, there are a number of parliamentarians who are bristling over what they view as an abuse of corporate governance and are consequently grilling Jennifer over the circumstances of her appointment. Like parliamentary hearings anywhere in the world, these often turn into mudslinging contest and Jennifer's qualifications (or lack thereof) have become the current issue. For now though, she is firmly in place and has the support of the shareholder (ie. Government of Uganda) so nothing the hearings come up with will change that. Disclaimer : I know both Cornwell and Jennifer and I have had business relationships with both Air Uganda and Uganda Airlines. The above information posted is all available in the public domain and does not include any confidential information that I may be privy to.

7
TravelinWilly Diamond

“The only question is, does anyone really care?” Anyone who doesn’t view the continent of Africa as one entity cares. “African landscape” sound ridiculous. Regale us next about the North American landscape with more stupid generalizations.

2
AA70 Gold

I'm trying so hard to get my foot in the door at an airline. Maybe I'm looking at the wrong ones

2
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