After the news emerged last week of underhanded attempts to secure a concession to manage the country’s single international airport, more vultures were discovered trying to get their hands into this piece of prime pie’ A Middle Eastern business group with links to India was reportedly also making overtures to the government to manage the airport, and it is understood that in a sudden flurry of activity, other proposals are presently being prepared for presentation. However, the government has yet to make clear their principal decision on whether or not the airport operation will be concessioned out, or not for that matter, and then let due process take place through an international tender to assure not only transparency but ensure the best possible expertise by reputable companies being sourced from competent bidders. Gold diggers and peddlers of quicksilver have no place in today’s Uganda, and companies only recently formed or with registered offices in tax and legal havens in particular, must be scrutinized and checked out to ensure Uganda’s family silver is safe and not being squandered by unscrupulous and opportunistic sharks.
Meanwhile, a number of parliamentarians also raised the matter in the house (their contributions described in the local media as furious), with some of them claiming “the country is for sale.” The airport was first fully rehabilitated in the 1990s by the Spanish company, Dragados, and then underwent another major upgrade and terminal expansion ahead of the Commonwealth Summit in late 2007. It is unclear what would happen to the very substantial loan portfolios still in place for these work contracts, as presently the CAA is responsible to repay them while also retaining the passenger services charge (US$40 for international passengers and US$20 for regional passengers) and rent received from offices and shops at the airport.
The local media has, in the meantime, continued to keep the spotlight on the issue and made further allegations during the week on the involvement of a number of individuals and organizations allegedly interested in the deal and either pushing for it or against it. The parliamentary opposition has also jumped on the band wagon, trying to make political capital out of the controversy. Food for thought, so keep watching this space for updates.