Uganda Civil Aviation Authority covering up their own audit failure?

Aviators approached to comment on the present state of affairs at the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority over the continued grounding of airlines, have on condition of anonymity called the regulatory body a ‘pathetic lot’ with one going further and calling the body ‘sore losers’ after UCAA allegedly performed poorly in a recent ICAO audit and as one regular commentator then put it ‘offloaded the blame on the airlines instead of owning up and clearing their own mess first’.

Yet another regular source then ranted on: ‘They absolutely do not care at all what financial damage they have inflicted on these airlines after pulling their AOC’s. They are hiding behind ‘BECAUSE WE SAY SO’ but there are now too many open questions over their handling of this affair, and the motives of what they did. They should not deceive themselves, the truth will come out about the results of the ICAO audit and if not from here, ICAO will have to publish their own findings because they are answerable to the aviation world’.

The affected airlines declined to comment, other than saying that all required material has been submitted and they were awaiting for the completion of that process. However, the word ‘expeditiously’ was no longer mentioned in the minimalistic responses, a pointer that even on that score the UCAA is now failing the aviation fraternity in Uganda in what can only be described as a reckless approach, considering one of the airlines affected, Air Uganda, had passed the IOSA industry benchmark audit of IATA’s operational safety audit with flying colours, something, going by the comments received, many aviators today seem to have greater confidence in than the work of the UCAA.

Information sourced by this correspondent in fact speaks for itself and exposes what has been going on inspite of continued efforts by the regulators to whitewash themselves.

One source close to the UCAA, again on condition of strictest anonymity, in fact suggested that the UCAA action was taken to save their own skins after the ICAO audit over fears to get labelled a regulatory body with ‘Significant Safety Concerns – SSC, the label ICAO hands to civil aviation bodies failing minimum standards.

From added information now available it is to be noted that: ‘A significant safety concern (SSC) does not necessarily indicate a particular safety deficiency in the air navigation service providers, airlines, aircraft or aerodromes but rather indicates that the State is not providing sufficient safety oversight to ensure the effective implementation of applicable ICAO standards’.

The graph in shown on this article of an ICAO audit in 2008 further goes to show the compliance gaps by the UCAA back then already and now, 6 years down the line, little seems to have changed:

A high ranking aviation source, previously close to another regional regulatory body and now working for the private sector, added: ‘In our country, if this were to happen, the regulators would be dragged to parliament for an enquiry. This is unheard of and in fact I hope it is fully investigated and if your CAA is found to have put even a toe wrong they ought to be held to account, financial damages, character assassination and all included. It gives all of us a bad name that such things are allowed to happen in East Africa’.

The affected airlines are all said to be suffering the financial impact of the UCAA decision to pull their AOC’s, none more than Air Uganda which has lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenues. And to prevent any suggestion from the party at fault here, that money and revenue is more important than safety, let me take that dagger away from them by clearly stating that aviation safety must not be compromised over financial considerations, but with the IOSA Certificate on Air Uganda’s walls, it is obvious that the issue is not about safety but about creating a safe haven for a failed regulatory regime and those who have the most to lose when this finally gets into the public domain with all facts at hand and not just the smoke screens and half-truths peddled by those in authority.

That is more so even as it has been alleged that the UCAA has apparently NOT at this stage obtained a Statutory Instrument for the Uganda Civil Aviation Regulations 2014 and that therefore, legally speaking, the old UCAR’s of 2012 are still in place until gazetted otherwise.

The conclusion therefore is, and there may be a whole rats’ tail of legal cases following, that the action of the UCAA by mere dictate can be challenged as to its legality and legal foundation. Meanwhile can it only be hoped that the powers that be crack down hard on the errant boys in Entebbe and make them work around the clock, weekends included, to re-certify the affected airlines and get them back into the air, as this entire charade is doing Uganda’s reputation no good at all but a lot of harm.

Questions, serious questions need to be asked and must be answered, best under oath before a commission of enquiry, where misleading the panel with defective answers carries the penalty of perjury.

Watch this space for breaking and regular aviation news from across Eastern Africa.