Jenifer Bamuturaki, the newly appointed Chief Executive Officer at Uganda Airlines, has come under fire in the ongoing probe by the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) into the findings of the Auditor General’s report for Financial Year 2020/2021 about the national carrier.
MPs have questioned Bamuturaki’s academic qualifications and said she’s not qualified to run Uganda’s national carrier.
However, Bamuturaki says she is qualified and has the required skills to head Uganda Airlines.
“I have what it takes to run this airline and nobody can take that away from me. It is my gift; I can do it and I will do it..not alone because I work with a team and that team there combined, we have over 100 years of experience together. All of us together have what it takes to run this airline. That’s why it hasn’t dropped out of the sky,” Bamuturaki told journalists after appearing before the COSASE chaired by Nakawa West Member of Parliament, Joel Ssenyonyi on Wednesday, 17 August 2022.
It should be noted that in a letter dated 5th July 2022, transport minister, Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala on the directive of President Yoweri Museveni, asked the chairperson of the Uganda Airlines board to appoint Jenifer Bamuturaki as the substantive CEO of the national carrier.
Prior to her appointment, Bamuturaki had served as the Acting CEO of Uganda Airlines since May 2021. This was after the then CEO Cornwell Muleyi and the entire board were suspended over mismanagement and corruption allegations.
Bamuturaki’s appointment came after the airline had advertised the CEO position on June 24, 2022. It’s reported that about 40 people had applied for the top job, but President Museveni had already been convinced that Bamuturaki was the right candidate to head Uganda Airlines.
Bamuturaki’s qualifications and Experience
Bamuturaki holds a Bachelor of Arts (honors) in Social Works and Social Administration which she obtained from Makerere University in 1993 and she is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Public Administration at the same University.
She has 15 years of experience in the aviation industry and therefore she is well suited for the job.
Bamuturaki told MPs that her experience supported by the certificates obtained from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) makes her a strong CEO for the job.
“The certificates I have from IATA; if you put them together, they will come to a diploma but I have a degree. It doesn’t matter what I did at degree level, but I have the skill and certification from IATA,” Bamuturaki said.
Additionally, Bamututaki was Country Manager for East African Airlines for seven years, having scooped the job in 2000.
She was also the Head of sales and marketing at the defunct Air Uganda in 2007 where she was“directly responsible for route research.”
She was also Director sales and marketing at Sheraton in 2014. She has a combined work experience spanning over 30 years.
Facts About Salaries
MPs have also been ‘shocked’ by the ‘fat’ salaries earned by the top management of Uganda Airlines, with the CEO reportedly earning Shs87m per month, Chief Finance Officer-Shs73m, Pilots-Shs60m, Manager Finance-Shs58m, Human Resource Manager-Shs43m, Manager Cargo-Shs14m and Cabin Crew members-Shs4m.
According to credible sources, the salaries quoted by the Auditor General and MPs isn’t what the current staff are earning. The salaries in question are projected salaries in the 5th year of operation as approved by the airline in its business plan.
Sources add that the salaries were determined by the Task Force comprising National Planning Authority and Ministry of Finance. The salary structure was later approved by the Cabinet in 2016 as the country geared to revive the national carrier.
This perhaps explains why Bamuturaki dismissed reports that she alongside her top ranking counterparts at Uganda Airlines are paid highly.
“I was looking at the wages that were circulated, they were truly false. That is not what we earn. I for instance don’t even earn 50 per cent of what was presented,” Bamuturaki said.
Additionally, regional airlines pay more than what Uganda Airlines staff are currently earning.
For example, reports show that Kenya Airways CEO earned Ushs2.05bn in 2018. This means that he was earning about 166.6m per month.
Bamuturaki’s Mark at Uganda Airlines
It is important to note that Uganda Airlines has only been in business for three years punctuated by the COVID-19 pandemic that affected the aviation industry badly.
Uganda Airlines started commercial operations in August 2019. It currently operates a fleet of four (4) CRJ900 and two (2) Airbus A330-800neo.
In 2019, when the Government of Uganda revived Uganda Airlines,
Bamuturaki was hired as the Commercial Manager of the new airline. However, after the probationary period ended, she was not given a long-term contract for unknown reasons.
However, following the suspension and interdiction of the entire board of directors and many senior management executives at the airline in April 2021 over corruption and mismanagement, the shareholders of the airline recalled Bamuturaki and made her the acting CEO in May 2021.
During the one-year period as acting CEO, Bamuturaki has registered great milestones with emphasis on zero-tolerance to corruption and employing cost-saving measures for the national carrier.
This however, has not gone down well with a section of people both within Government and outside who are hellbent to make dubious deals with Uganda Airlines.
According to sources, this explains why Bamuturaki continues to suffer negative publicity characterized by defamatory fabricated stories.
Sources say Bamuturaki’s stance to do the right thing and implement the airline’s business plan both in the short and long-term is what made President Museveni appoint her as the substantiate CEO.
“Jenifer has done a wonderful job and continues to do so. Anyone knowledgeable about the aviation industry will acknowledge that she’s doing a great job,” a source said, adding: “Those fighting her are thieves she has blocked from accessing funds and contracts they were used to under the sacked management.”
Despite the COVID-19 disruptions, travelers are increasingly embracing Uganda Airlines as the national carrier under the leadership of Bamuturaki continues to market itself as the airline of choice.
Recently, MPs on Parliament’s Committee on Physical Infrastructure were left impressed with the performance of Uganda Airlines after a guided tour of the airline’s offices and operations.
They promised to lobby for more Government funding to the national carrier.
“We are hopeful that this airline is going to develop since the number of passengers using Uganda Airlines are increasing. It started with 65,000 and in the third year, it has over 270,000 passengers. That’s a very big growth in terms of passengers and trust in the national carrier,” David Karubanga, the Chairperson of Parliament’s Committee on Physical Infrastructure, said.
It is important to note that Uganda’s flagship carrier carried a combined 93,780 passengers in 2019 and 2020. This shows that passengers are increasingly flying ‘the Crane’.
Bamuturaki recently told the press that the airline is now focusing on “investing in customer retention systems, seeking strategic partnerships, growing cargo operations and network expansion.”
Uganda Airlines has already completed feasibility studies on a number of routes it plans to fly to.
Some of the routes in question include Mumbai in India, London in the United Kingdom, Goma and Lubumbashi (both in the Democratic Republic of Congo) and Guangzhou in China. In fact, Uganda Airlines has already got approval to fly to Guangzhou.
Having started commercial operations in August 2019, Uganda Airlines has expanded its network to 11 destinations since inception.
However, according to the airline’s business plan, in the 2nd year of operation, the national carrier had planned to have 18 and four (4) regional and international routes respectively, but this couldn’t be possible due to COVID-19 effects.
Some of the Uganda Airlines operational routes include Nairobi, Mombasa, Dubai, Kinshasa, Johannesburg, Juba, Dar es Salaam Mogadishu and Bujumbura.
It’s worth noting that for the second year running, Uganda Airlines was in January 2022, awarded the World’s Youngest Aircraft Fleet Award, given by Ch-Aviation, an industry information collector and publisher based in the city of Chur, in Switzerland. The publication cited the average age of the aircraft in the Uganda Airlines fleet at 1.95 years.
Additionally, Uganda Airlines has started operating domestic scenic flights, which are targeting first time fliers and also boosting the carrier’s revenues from charters. The domestic scenic flights are being chartered by a private client, Vilakazi Safaris Uganda Ltd, that is promoting domestic tourism.
Uganda Airlines operated its first scenic or joy flight on May 1st 2022 aboard one of its four Bombardier CRJ900 aircrafts.
Uganda Airlines is also set to roll out its self-handling project this year. According to Bamuturaki, this will involve passenger, baggage and cargo handling, maintenance, security and general ground operations.
Ephraim Bagenda, the Director of Engineering and Maintenance at Uganda Airlines recently said the national carrier is currently spending US$250,000 (about Shs905.9m) per month on contracted maintenance.
“Self-handling will enable the Airline to cut 60% of its operating costs if it handles most of its operations at its hub in Entebbe,” Shakila Rahim Lamar, the Corporate Affairs & Public Relations Manager at Uganda Airlines, said.
Currently, DAS Company does ground handling for Uganda Airlines.
Uganda Airlines will join other successful airlines embracing self ground handling including but not limited to Emirates, KLM, SAS (Scandinavian Airlines), Lufthansa, Ethiopian, Kenya Airways and RwandAir.
To retain customers and improve passenger experience, Uganda Airlines under the leadership of Bamuturaki, also plans to activate a Frequent Flier Program in the 3rd quarter of 2022.
According to sources, Uganda Airlines has a good business plan and if implemented, the national carrier will no doubt make a mark in the aviation industry.
Bamuturaki and her team are keen to implement this plan.