After months of relentless pushing by the State Minister for Privatization and Investment against the advice of the Attorney General’s and Auditor General’s office as well as Minister of Finance, the High Court has ordered for an audit into insolvent Uganda Telecom Ltd (UTL).
The order was issued Friday by Justice Musa Ssekana of the Civil Division of the High Court in the application filed by Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) against the Administrator of UTL. UBC applied to court in its capacity as one of the creditors to UTL.
Court ordered for an audit to be carried on UTL which is in Administration, by the Auditor General within a period of 30 days from the date of the court order.
Furthermore, court directed that an audit report be presented to all the creditors of the company.
In reaction to the court decision, Minister Anite who has persistently opposed the legal advice by the Attorney General – that the audit could only happen if approved by court, celebrated the same approach she strongly defied.
“I thank Justice Musa Ssekana for a ruling affirming my demand for auditing UTL and Presidential directive on the same,” Anite tweeted.
“There is authority in this country and no amount of maneuvers can defeat the right and cause for the people of Uganda”.
Many would view the Minister’s statement as self defeating since from the start of this controversy, she single handedly chose to sideline the court process, instead announcing that Bemanya Twebaze (Administrator of UTL) had been removed and replaced. She said this was because Bemanya had frustrated government’s effort to audit UTL.
Recently, the Attorney General guided that one of the creditors who is also a government entity applies to court to have an audit undertaken. As such, Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) applied to court for the same.
But in a recent letter to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance also Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, Anite criticized the court process (application by UBC) saying it was in bad faith.
In the August 2 letter, Anite accused Muhakanizi (who had halted an audit by the Auditor General) 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”.
In halting the audit, Muhakanizi had made reference to letters dated 31st July 2019 and 1st August 2019 from UBC, indicating inter alia, that they had filed miscellaneous cause No. 226 of 2019 in the High court for an order that the auditor general be appointed to audit the telco.
He said he had discussed the matter with Finance Minister, Matia Kasaija and that he had directed that the court process should take its course and subsequently conduct the audit following this due process.
But Anite in response said: “The supersonic and robotic speed of UBC from the point of the initial letter to filing of the application referred to in your letter in a record 3 days speaks of nothing else but to a grand scheme aimed at sabotaging the audit. This will not succeed. Not under my watch”.
“I restate that UBC’s application for appointment of another auditor is in bad faith, because the audit process had commenced and the applicant has not advanced any reason why the appointed auditor cannot inform the creditors, government and the public as stakeholders”.
She argued that “it does not matter who audits UTL” but that “the appointed auditor should be capable”. Anite said UBC was being used as a pawn simply because it could not wait for an (illegal) audit to be concluded “since the same is being undertaken by a reputable auditor”.
In his affidavit in reply to the court application by UBC, Bemanya stated that he has no objection whatsoever to the appointment of the Auditor General to audit his activities in the administration of UTL, but that such appointment and audit should give due regard to the peculiar status of UTL which is in administration, the overall objective of administration, the interests of all creditors of the company and the general powers granted to deed administrators under the law.
He also prayed that the Court gives guidance on how such an audit should be conducted without compromising the purpose of administration.
In its Friday ruling, Court stated that it shall give further directions and guidance when called upon.
This ruling now clears the standoff between Anite and other senior officials in Government, especially reaffirming that the position of the Attorney General and Auditor General were correct and that Anite was hell-bent on an illegality.