Four Uganda Telecom (UTL) top officials have been accused of participating in a raft of dubious transactions among them conflict of interest, salary disparities, irregular and fraudulent payments and, the impending fraudulent sale of over 10 pieces of land belonging to the parastatal that is partially government-owned, with 31 per cent shares. Other shares totaling 69 per cent are owned by the seemingly defunct Libya African Portfolio Green Network (LAP GreenN).
According to a damning report after private investigations by Nathan Nandala Mafabi, the four implicated officers include UTL Managing Director Mark Shoebridge, the Chief Legal Officer David Nambale, the Chief Finance Officer (CFO) James Wilde and Chief Internal Auditor Ayub Mulumba.
In the report Mr Mafabi, a former Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in the Eighth Parliament, says the MD Mark Shoebridge and the Chief Legal Officer Nambale masterminded the irregular sale of the said plots, all valued at Shs39.034 billion.
The said plots include Plot 41-47 on 5th Street Industrial Area, which was allegedly sold to Magnet Construction Company Limited at US$ 4.9m (approx. Shs17.15bn on the open market) under an agreement signed by Stephen Kaboyo and David Nambale on behalf of UTL, and Shimon Halfon and Sam Ahamya on behalf of Magnet. According to Mr Mafabi’s report, US$3.94m was paid and the outstanding balance was scheduled to be paid in four installments between May 2016 and February 2017.
The other land already disposed of is Plot 1-7 Nsambya Yard, which was sold to Intercar (U) Ltd, represented by Bob Kabonero and Margeret Mirembe Gureme, at US$1.567m (Approx.Shs5.484bn). The July 8, 2015 agreement was signed by MD Shoebridge and CLO Nambale, representing UTL.
Further, according to the Mafabi report, other imminent and pending questionable sales of UTL land include: Plots 125, 128, 130. 131, 132, 133, 142, 143 and Kibuga Block 38 in Makerere, Wandegeya, with the buildings, communication equipment and infrastructure thereon, all valued at UgShs5 billion on the open market; Plot 41-43 Kyambogo with the buildings, communication equipment and infrastructure thereon, all valued at UgShs900 million on the open market; and Plot 2 Siad Barre Avenue Nakasero (Opposite Rwenzori Courts and now being used as a parking yard), valued at Shs10.5 billion on the open market.
According to Mr Mafabi, the Chief Finance Officer James Wilde engaged in ‘conflict of interest’ financial activities when his company, the Sub sahara Group where he reportedly owns 99.9 shares, was contracted by UTL to audit 472 sites at UgShs100m on voucher No 020089. The company was also contracted for an unspecified amount of money to tow UTL vehicles to and from garages on voucher 724690.
Highlighting Mr Mulumba’s miscreants, Mr Mafabi said the Chief Internal Auditor received Shs 33 million ‘for no services rendered’ in respect to DISC Africa, with the first down payment of 25.944 million made in cash on August 22 on voucher number 724655.
Commenting on the salary disparities at UTL, Mr Mafabi said the top four officials: the MD, CFO, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Human Resource Officer collectively earn a total of Shs 420 million, with the highest getting UgShs150 million, while the lowest of the quartet earns UgShs60 million per month.
‘This is 1/3 of the salary bill for the about 500 UTL workers. These salaries are indeed the highest for such staff in any company in Uganda,’ wrote Mr Mafabi.
Meanwhile, the Mafabi report is before Parliament, which has ordered those implicated not to travel abroad until the matters raised are resolved.
But in response to the accusations, Mr Stephen Kaboyo, while addressing a press conference, denied any asset-stripping of UTL.
‘There has been no asset stripping at UTL. Only two assets have been sold but disposed in a right manner,’ he said, ostensibly in respect to the land in Industrial Area and in Nsambya.
He also said the travel ban will affect UTL business.
‘The travel ban affects us and the business so much and I appeal to the speaker and Parliament at large to lift it’, he said.