Scandals in the management of Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) now in liquidation continue to emerge as the local telecom company still wait to get an investor who can pump into it dollars that can help it compete with foreign owned ones like MTN Uganda and Airtel Uganda who are the dominants in the market.
The latest in the series of scandals involves State Minister for Investment and Privatisation Evelyne Anite and Keith Muhakanizi, the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to the Treasury, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MFPED).
The rivalry between Minister Anite and Muhakanizi stems from President Yoweri Museveni’s directive of July 16, 2019 to Anite, instructing her to audit UTL whose administrator is Bemanya Twebaze, the Registrar General and Official Receiver Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB).
In his directive, Museveni said it was important for UTL to be audited so as to establish what is going on inside the company partly owned by Libyans.
However, Muhakanizi recently in his letter Ref: PADS54/255/02 instructed the Ag. Internal Auditor General to halt the audit exercise into the troubled company, reasoning that UBC has applied to court for the Auditor General to be appointed to audit UTL and that proceeding with the process would amount to sub judice, as advised by lawyers he did not mention.
In the letter, Anite castigates Muhakanizi for also stating that the decision to ask the Ag. Internal Auditor General to halt to audit was a directive from her boss Matia Kasaija, the Finance Minister.
In her letter she says Muhakanizi and Kasaija should have taken note of Museveni’s directive on the audit of UTL and facilitated its implementation, instead of derailing the process that Museveni wants to be done.
“The audit into Uganda Telecom Limited was to me through my office sanctioned by H.E The President…I have clear and unequivocal instructions from HE The President to carry out an audit of UTL. In the absence of a contrary directive from him, I am not in position to act contrary to his directive and you and Hon. Matia Kasaija would be well advised to-do likewise,” Anite states.
Anite says that the sub judice rule doesn’t not apply to the audit process and that the directive by Museveni is aimed at ensuring proper management of UTL. “The rule (sub judice) cannot therefore be used to stop a legitimate process that is aimed at enhancing transparency in the management of UTL,” she adds.
Anite in the letter urges Muhakanizi to formally write to Museveni about his directive to her to ensure that UTL is audited. The minister accuses Muhakanizi of what she refers to as, “Outright connivance, subterfuge, sabotage and manipulation all aimed at stalling efforts to find out the state of UTL to inform further government action.”
She says the grand scheme to sabotage the audit of UTL will not succeed. “Not under my watch,” she says, adding that UBC’s application to court to appoint the Auditor General to audit UTL was regrettable as the Auditor General had declined in an earlier letter had declined to undertake an audit of UTL.
Anite as such has warned Muhakanizi from interfering with the audit of UTL and urged the Internal Auditor General to continue with the process. “The purpose of this communication is to instruct you to stop interfering implementation of the presidential directive and by copy of this letter instruct the Ag. Auditor General to proceed with auditing UTL,” she states.
Anite had in June attempted to have the administrator of UTL, Bemanya replaced, despite opposition from the Attorney General’s office.
In a letter dated June 26, 2019, Anite directed the Attorney General to apply to the court for orders replacing Bemanya Twebaze as the Administrator of Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL). On Friday, The Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana disregarded the directive saying that the Finance Minister has no supervisory powers over the Administrator.
Bemanya was appointed Administrator of UTL following the exit of Ucom Limited, a Libyan owned firm that owned 69 per cent shares in March 2017. He entered into an Administration Deed and the shareholders ceded.
Early this week, the Attorney General William Byaruhanga also advised that there cannot be an audit of the administrators’ activities in UTL until the administration process elapses.
According to a letter addressed to Kasaija, Byaruhanga said the administrator Bemanya is only bound to make reports on the progress of administration to the creditors of the company and furnish copies to court, the official receiver and the registrar of companies.
The communication came at the backdrop of letters by Anite stating that the government has encountered considerable difficulty dealing with the Administrator and completely lost confidence in his ability to continue serving the role.
Rukutana explained that the grounds to remove an administrator must relate to failure to comply with the duties imposed on the Administrator under the Administration Deed, the Insolvency Act or any other law or any orders and directions of court adding that he had not found any fault on the part of the Administrator that warrants his removal.
Rukutana further faulted Anite’s quest for Bemanya’s removal on grounds that it undermines a ruling by the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga who clearly stated that administration is a Court-controlled process and that neither the legislature nor the executive should interfere with.
But moments after Rukutana’s opinion, Anite stated that the response points to a confirmation of a view that Bemanya is a crooked Lawyer entrenched in the Attorney General’s office. She said that a cartel in sections of government is keen to have UTL liquidated and sell to themselves the strategic assets of the company.
She further instructed the Attorney General to apply to the court to replace him, regardless of the advice of the Deputy Attorney General.
But in a letter dated July 1, Byaruhanga maintained the position by his deputy and reaffirmed that the audit cannot happen when the office of the Auditor-general declined to conduct the audit. According to the letter, a request to the auditor general was rejected on grounds that since the company is under administration, which is a court controlled process, this may potentially pose legal challenges.
“Therefore, it is my view that during the period of administration the progress of the process can be ascertained from the reports furnished to the above-named parties under the Law. However, I am of the view that an audit of the administrator’s activities can only be undertaken upon conclusion of the process which in this instance expires on November 22, 2019,” read the letter.
Byaruhanga added then that the office of the Auditor General is not supposed to work under directions or control of any person or authority. The Attorney General further advises that the minister may choose to request them to pursue this option only if there is evidence that the administrator is not complying with his duties under the administration Deed, the Insolvency Act and any other law or any orders or directions of the court.