By Max Patrick Ocaido
Bemanya Twebaze, the Registrar General and Official Receiver Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) has on Monday rushed to meet Speaker Rebecca Kadaga over Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) saga.
According to sources, Bemanya on Monday morning held an in-camera private meeting with Kadaga at her office shortly before the Speaker hosted a delegation from the Inter-Party Organization for Dialogue (IPOD).
This private meeting comes after a storm erupted at Parliament on Thursday when Alioni Odria Yorke, Aringa South County MP exposed the rot at UTL citing mismanagement of funds without accountability. Speaker Kadaga promised to rule on the UTL saga on Tuesday (tomorrow) on whether or not UTL should be investigated again 3 years after the Nandala Mafabi report.
In response, State Minister for Privatization, Evelyn Anite said that the finance ministry has no records of accountability on the operations of UTL or even how much the company is making after UTL administrator [Bemanya] blocked the Ministry from accessing its records for auditing through internal auditors. She added that the Auditor General and Attorney General have failed to offer guidance for auditing UTL on grounds that “it is a court led process.”
“We wrote to the Auditor General to audit UTL administration, but he said he is unable to audit UTL. Since UTL is under Finance ministry, we decided to get internal auditors to audit the company, but the administrator said he cannot allow any internal auditors to audit them and that they can only account to Court. We wrote to the Attorney General who asked for more time to study the law on if or not we can audit the company,” Anite said.
“Whereas the process to recapitalize UTL is ongoing, we cannot go to UTL to find out what is happening, we do not know how much money the company is making and indeed Finance ministry is concerned and the country is right to be concerned.”
Bemanya however, denies blocking an audit from the Ministry of Finance saying that it was not the right time for the government to carry out an audit.“Final accounts will be availed for auditing at the end of administration due on 22nd November 2019. Nonetheless, the law requires us to make periodic reports every 6 months. These have always been done and shared with Court and all creditors. They are public documents,” Twebaze said.
On April 29, 2017, UTL, the country’s first telecommunication operator was placed under receivership after failing to meet its financial obligations. According to a 2018 Cabinet memorandum, UTL’s total liability stood at $147m (Over Shs550bn). From this $147m debt, government-owned $53.61m, NSSF-$2.84m, ESATD/PTA Bank-$8.91m, UCECPS-$3.34m and $77.86m for Others.
Other than liquidating the telecom company where government through Finance ministry owned 31% and the rest of the shares owned by UCom, the government placed the company into receivership and in May 2017 appointed Bemanya Twebaze as its receiver-manager or administrator.
During a cabinet meeting chaired by President Yoweri Museveni, the executive gave Finance ministry up to 22nd May 2018 to find a new investor to ‘resuscitate’ UTL through an open bidding evaluation process. The job to search for a potential investor was left in the hands of State minister for Privatization Evelyn Anite and UTL administrator Bemanya Twebaze.
However, the process to find a new investor suffered a setback after UTL administrator recommended that the contract be given to Teleology Holdings in contrary to the recommendations of the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA). The contract was, however, canceled after it emerged that the investor- Teleology Holdings did not have the financial muscle to invest into the telecom company. UTL is back on the drawing board to look for a new investor.