Members of the Budget Committee in Parliament are demanding clarity from the government on the continuous capitalization of Uganda National Airlines, especially in light of the proposed budget increase for the airline in the 2024/2025 financial year.
The adjustments in the budget were revealed in the report presented by the Committee on Physical Infrastructure on the National Budget Framework Paper for the Ministry of Works and Transport. Hon. Tony Awany, the committee chairperson, shared the report on January 16, 2024.
“The Government plans to augment the airline’s funding by Shs34.9 billion, raising the budget to Shs120.9 billion. These funds are designated for payments to the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, staff wages, training, aviation fuel procurement, aircraft insurance, inflight catering, and other expenses,” Awany explained.
However, this report has triggered concerns among MPs on the Budget Committee regarding the profitability of Uganda National Airlines, with members highlighting operational inefficiencies.
Questions were raised about the government’s investment in the airline, the number of shares held by the government, and the intended investments in the short, medium, and long term, along with the funding mechanisms.
Hon. Dickson Kateshumbwa (NRM, Sheema municipality) inquired, “We need to understand the Government investment in the airline; how many shares does the Government have? How much do they intend to invest in the short term, midterm, and long term, and which funding vehicle?”
Addressing operational decisions, Hon. Remigio Achia, the Deputy Chairperson of the Budget Committee, expressed concerns about the choice of flight destinations, particularly mentioning Abuja. He also complained about frequent flight delays, emphasizing the need for the airline to demonstrate a path to profitability.
“When you talk of flying to destinations such as Dubai, anyone can understand. We want to know what informed the airline to open flights to places such as Abuja,” said Hon. Remigio Achia.
Achia also expressed dissatisfaction with the airline’s punctuality, sharing personal experiences of significant delays. “I have recently used the airline thrice; I do not understand why they are always late; for an hour, even two hours, you expect to fly out at 8 p.m., but you end up flying at 10 p.m.,” he remarked.
In addition to these concerns, MPs raised questions about the allocation of funds, noting that critical projects like the Kampala-Jinja Expressway and the standard gauge railway are not prioritized in the budget.
Legislators expressed frustration over budgeting for non-critical areas, such as the Shs5 billion earmarked to increase road user behavior and knowledge, while essential infrastructure projects face neglect. The discussion in Parliament reflects a broader need for transparency and accountability in government spending, especially in strategic sectors such as transportation.