President Yoweri Museveni last week came to the rescue of national broadcaster Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) once again. This time round the president saved UBC from an embarrassing property attachment that was already underway by Uganda Revenue Authority over tax arrears.
According to reliable sources, URA had written to UBC to clear the tax arrears that by last week stood at over Shs 4Bn, in vain.
After several notices, that were responded to with several unfulfilled promises, the tax body ran out of patience and last week, dispatched its staff with orders to attach anything valuable in a bid to recover the taxes.
The tax body also intended to close down all UBC properties in case nothing of value to the tune of their tax arrears was found on the premises.
And last week, the tax operators stormed the UBC headquarters in Kampala and seized over 10 corporation vehicles. The operatives then moved to shut down the UBC studios, but it wasn’t going to be an easy feat considering that the UBC headquarters house several studios for the corporation’s multiple TV and radio stations.
But the URA operatives were tipped off that the corporation owns a centralised control centre in Bugolobi that is operated by Indian company Signet, which is in charge of digital migration.
URA operatives then rushed to Signet offices in Bugolobi and closed them down for several hours. According to our sources, after learning that they were headed to Bugolobi, the corporation management team led by the revamp committee head- Ministry of ICT Permanent Secretary (PS) Vincent Bagire, together with the corporation MD Winston Agaba, placed a call to URA commissioner general Dorris Akol and asked for a meeting.
After closing down Signet, URA was set to shut down the entire system there. This meant that all other TV stations had to go off, since they all get their signals from UBC, which was going to be switched off.
The UBC team met Akol, but their meeting didn’t yield any fruits as the no-nonsense Akol told them she was disappointed at the way they had handled the URA notices.
Enters the president
The UBC team were not left with so many options, but to turn to the corporation’s godfather- the president. They were lucky to secure a quick appointment with the president and they met him the same day.
According to our sources, the meeting, as expected, calmed the storm that URA had become to UBC. The source told us that after the meeting, the president called Ms Akol and the two had a chat. He then ordered his staff to arrange a payment of a whopping Shs 2bn to URA as part payment of the Shs 4bn UBC tax burden.
The president also asked Akol to release all UBC properties that has been seized by the tax body.
Why Museveni came to UBC’s rescue
Our sources told us that the president was quick to come to UBC’s rescue simply because he was very well aware of the outstanding tax arrears that had accumulated over the years when UBC was poorly managed.
The source told us that the Shs4bn tax arrears was one of the key issues that were to be settled once the presidential directive to give UBC a bailout of Shs 20bn was executed by the ministry of finance.
On October 12 last year, Mr Museveni wrote to the Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Mr Frank Tumwebaze, and copied in, among others, the minister of Finance, the permanent secretary in the same ministry, who also doubles as the Secretary to the Treasury. The president made a directive that they should give the financially troubled UBC a bailout of Shs20 billion to help it get back on its feet. By that time, UBC’s debt burden was said to stand at about Shs29 billion.
According to our sources, the bailout money was however delayed after a dossier that we wrote about in this very paper a few months back, got into the corridors of power and led to a new wave of changes at the national broadcaster.
The dossier was triggered by the fact that the then newly appointed information and ICT minister in 2016, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, appointed his friend Simon Kaheru as the new board chairman of UBC. And just months into his role, the new chairman’s modus operandi is said to have caused more turbulence at the corporation. Kaheru was accused of overstepping his mandate, usurped the MD’s powers and bulldozed and arm-twisted him and people that were supposed to report him! It wasn’t long before Kaheru even suspended the MD.
Two senior citizens took keen interest in the matters at UBC and came out with dossier that had information, backed up with evidence, implicating Kaheru on mismanaging the corporation, its funds, as well as misrepresenting the corporation on a couple of occasions.
The dossier was handed to the speaker of parliament- Hon. Rebecca Kadaga.
Yet the same dossier indicated that most of Kaheru’s decisions and moves had been backed by the minister- Hon. Tumwebaze,’ hence making the two allies of sorts!
It was this dossier that led to the delay to implement the presidential directive to give UBC a Shs 20bn bailout.
Instead, the dossier caused a new wave of change that saw Kaheru being side-lined and all decision making powers entrusted in what was dubbed ‘the revamp committee!’
Bagiire Vwas ordered to create a revamp committee that was to spearhead the revamping of the national broadcaster.
Mr Bagiire selected a one Dr. Kaggwa as the head of the revamp committee. Other members include defunct Sports TV owner- Nada Andersen as well as a one Leila Najjuko, who is said to have been the first lady’s PA for a very long time.
Our sources told us back then that the same revamp committee was, as part of their revamping role, entrusted with overseeing the expenditure of the Shs 20bn bailout money.
Our source reliably informed us then, that the first installment of the bailout cash of Shs12bn, had been received by the revamp committee.