Uganda Airlines (UR, Entebbe/Kampala) former chief executive officer Cornwell Muleya appeared in a Kampala court on June 22 after he was arrested on June 21 for disobeying orders of the Ugandan Inspectorate of Government to give evidence on alleged mismanagement at the airline under his tenure.

According to the charge sheet seen by ch-aviation, Muleya between May and June 2022 “willfully and without reasonable justification or excuse, refused to comply with an order of the Inspectorate of Government dated May 23, 2022, requiring his attendance to give evidence and produce documents to the Inspectorate of Government, regarding mismanagement of public funds, procurements, and recruitment of staff at the Uganda Airlines”.

Muleya was arraigned before Buganda Road Magistrate’s Court after spending a night in custody and charged with contravening section 35 (a) of the Inspectorate of Government Act, 2002. He, however, denied the charges and asked to be released on bail arguing that he is a law abiding citizen and ready to report to court whenever required. Magistrate Asuman Muhumuza asked Muleya to deposit his old and new passports with the court and also pay UGX1.5 million (USD404) bail.

Speaking at a news briefing in Kampala on June 21, Deputy Inspector General Patricia Achan Okiria, who signed the charge sheet, confirmed Muleya’s arrest and that he had been charged “with the offence of failure to attend before the Inspectorate of Government when so ordered”. She said his arrest was to serve as a “message to members of the public against disobeying orders of the Inspectorate of Government”.

As reported Muleya and 12 other executives were placed on enforced leave from Uganda Airlines on April 21, 2021, by orders of the Presidency following allegations of financial mismanagement and nepotism at the airline made in a report by Uganda’s Auditor-General. Muleya had served as chief executive of the state-owned airline from 2019 to May 2021.

“During the time of his office, irregularities were discovered about his style of management of the company and a complaint was filed here about a year or so ago, which the Inspectorate of Government has been investigating. It is on the basis of that, that we summoned him, being the chief executive officer of the national airline,” Okiria said.

According to the Auditor-General’s report, the airline had lost UGX15 billion shillings (USD4.1 million) in the Financial Year 2018/2019 and UGX102 billion (USD28.5 million) in FY2019/20, with UGX168 million (USD45,815.42) in interest financing costs. It slammed the airline for incurring expenses that were way beyond the planned costs and its actual revenue. It further underlined that the airline’s business plan was not implemented in accordance with anticipated timelines.

In response, Uganda Airlines said the UGX102.4 billion loss during FY2019/20 had been due to a lack of activity due to the grounding of its aircraft because of the country’s COVID-19 lockdown. The UGX15 billion loss in FY2018/19 had been incurred during the pre-operation period from January 30, 2018, to June 30, 2019, when the airline had just been incorporated and was investing in its set up activities and was not flying. This had included the deposits for purchase orders for four CRJ900LRs and two A330-800Ns, the airline said.

According to Uganda's The Observer newspaper, Muleya on April 4, 2022, filed a claim with the Ugandan Industrial Court against Uganda Airlines for unlawful termination, claiming UGX3.5 billion shillings (about USD900,000) in salary arrears and termination benefits. This includes UGX126 million (USD33,600) in outstanding salary payment for February 2022, UGX1 billion (USD267,000) for reputational damages, and UGX1.2 billion (USD320,600) in damages for loss of employment. The government eventually terminated his contract at Uganda Airlines in mid-February 2022.

Uganda Airlines began commercial flights on August 28, 2019. Its inter-continental plans were delayed by the late certification of its two A330-800s by the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority.