Toasting to and Roasting the Men and Women of 2014 [opinion]

Take your seats, ladies and gentlemen, as we kick off our annual business review party, where we raise our glasses to those who punched above their weights, and throw a few under the meat-grinder for making us shake our heads in wonder for much of the year.

But first, apologies to those who made their Christmas holiday flight-bookings in aance with Air Uganda. We feel your pain. And to those who held accounts with Global Trust bank, you, too, will be fine.

As a matter of fact, let’s start with these two companies for the benefit of those that have been away from the country for a while.

Step forward Mrs Morenikeji Adepoju and receive your taunts for letting Global Trust bank collapse under your watch. We are mindful of all the hardships you faced when you inherited a bank that hardly left the intensive care unit, receiving shots of life-supporting bailout packages. Still, we expected more from you.

Global Trust bank entered the market six years ago in such an aggressive style, gobbling up a credit bank, CMF, at a time when new players preferred to go Greenfield.

We expected the bank to carry on with this tradition and deepen its network throughout the country. But what Global served us were endless promises that usually looked like boring sessions of foreplay and hardly any penetration of its banking services (no pun intended).

Governor Emmanuel Tumusiime-Mutebile, scratching his grey beard as he watched on the sidelines of how the bank’s profit and capital base had shrunk to alarming levels, decided he had seen enough.

He pulled the plug, effectively switching off the machine and sending Global Trust bank to its deathbed, from where dfcu bank picked up whatever pieces of the carcass that looked useful. A round of applause for Mutebile.

Next in line is Cornwell Muleya, the former chief executive officer of Air Uganda. Unlike Adepoju, who left without a whimper, you, Cornwell, fell with a loud thud. The reverberations of your exit from your Kololo office were felt as far as the Civil Aviation Authority in Entebbe, the place where all this was orchestrated.

You said the chaps at Civil Aviation Authority were hiding under the cover of their incompetence and that they had let you out to dry for flimsy reasons. You were probably right.

But we still expected you to cut a deal in the one-month grace period they handed to you, however ugly the terms. In Uganda, sometimes, it’s the law of the jungle. We might never know the whole truth of Air Uganda’s collapse.

Nevertheless, we have to hand you, Muleya, the proverbial wooden spoon for being in charge when the only airline that had roots to Uganda folded. Use that spoon to scoop some baked beans, won’t you?

Waiters, please pass around glasses of champagne Ms Allen Kagina is in the building. Take a bow, Allen, take a bow. The former Commissioner General at Uganda Revenue Authority ended her stint at the tax body in September, taking with her a few scalps, especially Tullow Oil.

When, in 2010, Heritage Oil left Uganda without paying a dime of the $404m capital tax from the sale of its asset to Tullow Oil, Kagina made it a personal ambition to get that money back. URA issued Tullow Oil an agency notice and passed on that burden to the Irish firm. Tullow duly paid up.

We all thought Kagina was done with Tullow. We were wrong. She traced more money from Tullow’s sale of two thirds of its stake to French firm Total and China’s Cnooc.

While Tullow said it had a tax exemption clause in its production sharing agreement, granted to it by former Energy Minister Syda Bbumba, Kagina and her team at URA would not hear any of it. They successfully argued that the minister did not have those powers.

It was one of the last major cases that Kagina won before leaving. Regardless of the merits of the cases, take a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon with you as you return to your seat. There you are, Patrick Mweheire, the head of corporate and investment banking at Stanbic bank. We could not end this party without you.

You danced with the demon – at least that is how some ungrateful Ugandans like to view Umeme Limited – and turned that power utility firm into some sort of beauty. Your structure of the sale of Actis’ stake in Umeme Holdings, the once parent company of Umeme limited, was grabbed with open arms. We thought investors would stay away but your magic wand stemmed those fears.

Now, my fly on the wall tells me you are a managing director in waiting at Stanbic. Are you?

Sadly, I have to end this with a few boos to Maria Kiwanuka, the minister of Finance. As the first person to join the ministry of Finance straight from the private sector, some of us had too much hope in you, Maria.

But it appears you got sucked up in the political shenanigans of this regime, especially on how you handled the appointment of the managing director of NSSF. The whole process almost turned into one big farce. Thumbs-down for you, Maria.

A disclaimer for those who are going to roast me after reading this: I am sure there are more deserving candidates out there, making bigger strides without getting any headlines. Happy now? Merry Christmas to you all.

Twitter: jeff_mbanga. The writer is the Business Editor of The Observer

Source : The Observer

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