Uganda Telecom hits back at MP Nandala Mafabi over critical report

UTL managing director, Mark Shoebridge. Photo: UTL
UTL managing director, Mark Shoebridge. Photo: UTL

Executives at Uganda Telecom Limited have hit back at claims that the telecom is poorly managed, unstable, and in free fall, insisting that it is going through a turnaround that is “pointing in the right direction.”

The telecom held a press conference today to respond to a report tabled by FDC MP, Nandala Mafabi, in parliament on Thursday which said that the company is “sinking.” In response to the claims in the report, parliament set up a seven-member committee to investigate UTL’s activities.

Read More: Parliament to probe Uganda Telecom over “poor and unstable” management 

A statement signed by the board chairman at UTL, Stephen Kaboyo, said the company has indeed “faced numerous challenges” for the past eight years. “Today, we have in place a new management team that has been tasked to turn the business around.”

The statement adds that the company is analysing its cost structure as part of the turnaround plan, and has reduced “non-essential operational costs” as a result. “We are pleased to report that these efforts have already shown significant results, with our revenues having increased by 13%, our operational expenses have reduced by 8%, and our operational deficit has decreased by 23%; a position and overall trend the company has not seen for many years,” Mr Kaboyo said in the statement.

Mr Kaboyo also addressed three of the twelve issues listed by Mr Mafabi as having caused the company’s troubles. He said the company has been “audited each year by reputable firms such as KPMG and Ernst & Young;” the MP’s report said that “for many years, no auditing has been done on the company accounts or assets.”

The board chair said that while the company is still significantly indebted, it has cleared several of the debts Mr Mafabi mentioned. The telecom resumed remitting contributions to NSSF this February, had a suit by Huawei Ltd seeking payment of debts withdrawn in October, and has settled 88% of the amount it owes to MTN Uganda for interconnect fees.

It also refutes Mr Mafabi’s claim that UTL’s top management is stripping the company of its assets. “Only two properties have been disposed of through proper governance and approvals from the Board of Directors and Shareholders,” Mr Kaboyo said.

Mark Shoebridge, the telecom’s managing director, also told Uganda Business News that there are “significant inaccuracies and incomplete data” in the Mr Mafabi’s report. “Clearly there is a lot of misinformation and rumour at work,” he said in emailed in remarks.

The majority shareholder in UTL, a former parastatal, is the Libyan government with 69%. The Uganda government is the only other shareholder.