The High Court in Kampala has appointed former Uganda Law Society president, Ruth Sebatindira as the new Uganda Telecom Limited Administrator to replace Bemanya Twebaze whose contract expired in November.
Uganda Contribution Employees’ Contributory Pension Scheme (UCECPS) which is one of the major creditors to UTL went to court accusing Bemanya of failure to perform his due in regards collection of the outstanding amounts due to UTL from various government departments and failure to find an investor to recapitalize the company and pay creditors on time.
The scheme argued that Bemanya is not the right person to be the Administrator for UTL.
On Thursday morning, lady justice, Lydia Mugambe said Sebatindira is fit to replace Bemanya because she is a qualified and registered insolvency practitioner with vast experience and expertise that would enable her to safeguard the interests of the creditors for UTL.
When the application was filed, Bemanya didn’t object to it, saying court was free to appoint another Administrator for UTL after the expiry of his term in November last year.
In August, the High Court ordered an audit into UTL after Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), one of the creditors applied to court to have the telecom company audited amid stiff resistance from several parties.
The court also directed that the audit report be given to all the Uganda Telecom creditors.
The audit created not only confusion and fight for supremacy but also a collision of politics and the law in regards Uganda Telecom issues.
Following a July 16,2019 letter by President Museveni to Minister of State for Privatisation and Investment Evelyn Anite directing her to cause an audit into UTL to enable government confirm or clear the allegations about the mess at the telecom company, the ministry Permanent Secretary, Keith Muhakanizi ordered for the halt of the process.
In an August 2, 2019 letter, Muhakanizi asked the acting internal auditor for the ministry to halt the audit on Uganda Telecom Limited (UTL) because it would be subjudice since the matter was in court.
In response, Anite asked Muhakanizi to back off the matter saying it was a presidential directive that needed to be respected.
“If you are seeking to reject the directive of H.E the President to me, do it formally and write to him instead of outright connivance, subterfuge, sabotage and manipulation all aimed at stalling efforts to find out the true state of UTL to inform further government action,”Anite’s August 2 letter reads in part.
In the letter, the furious Anite says Muhakanizi’s actions raise concern over his intentions in regards the audit into Uganda Telecom Limited.
Uganda Telecom Limited was co-owned between the governments of Uganda and Libya, but the arrangement shattered following the toppling of then Libyan President, Muammar Gaddafi.
UTL has had a turbulent recent past, which forced Parliament to form a Select Committee that conducted a probe and recommended government to capitalise the firm and offer more shares to a financially capable company and also set aside the then administrator.
In April 2017, when faced by a pool of creditors who were jostling to liquidate UTL’s assets, government decided to put the company under receivership by the Registrar General, Bemanya Twebaze.
By putting the company under receivership, government insulated it from liquidation by incensed creditors and a search for new administrators who would buy and inherit the company’s debts was initiated.
Taleology Holdings, a Nigerian based telecom firm took over, but Anite said it failed to manage the company’s debt and accounts, and technically agreed to vacate.
In 2018, cabinet extended UTL’s operational licence for 20 more years but Uganda Communications Commission Executive Director, Godfrey Mutabazi later wrote to the company’s administrator noting that they may not renew the UTL licence for failure tom meet some requirements under the law.
Mutabazi said UTL owes UCC shs49.8billion in pre-administration debt and shs10.2billion as part of the administration on top of not complying with the requirement of installation of an Intelligence Network Monitoring System (INMS) so as to allow state agencies monitor telephone calls for security purposes.