Smiling to the bank. Kutesa’s company ENHAS billed UN at least $30 million, possibly more, in past six years
The private company owned by the controversial new President of the United Nations General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, who is also Uganda’s minister of foreign affairs, earned nearly $30 million from United Nations contracts over the past six years, billing records accessed online by The Black Star News show.
The Black Star News couldn’t access billing data covering a three-year period meaning Kutesa’s company possibly earned millions more.
It now also appears that the United Nations has disabled all the links to the ENHAS invoices previously accessed online by The Black Star News, showing the amounts Kutesa’s company billed the UN.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and his spokespersons didn’t respond to several past inquiries from The Black Star News seeking to determine whether Kutesa had revealed his ownership of the company, Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS), when it was granted the UN contracts, initially in 2006.
It’s akin to Secretary John Kerry, or a foreign minister of another member state raking in millions in UN contracts through a private company without disclosing that he owned the company.
The UN also didn’t say whether the contracts were awarded through competitive bidding.
The organization has been rocked in the past by allegations of corruption in the awarding of lucrative contracts, including payment of bribes to steer business to preferred vendors. The most egregious episode was the oil for food scandal, when Iraq’s former dictator Sadam Hussein was allowed by some UN officials to divert billions of dollars to his personal coffers. The U.S. annually contributes about one-third for UN funding, and peace-keeping operations alone cost $7 billion; as the UN’s top contributor, likely U.S. taxpayers’ money has benefited ENHAS, possibly improperly. The UN didn’t respond to a question about this possibility.
The Secretary General’s office and the UN’s legal department also didn’t provide details on how the contracts were monitored and how officials verified that the services billed for by ENHAS were actually performed.
The billing amounts ranged from $640,000, such as in invoice #12KIN-200319 billed to MONUSCO in December 2011; to invoice # 11KIN-200097 billed to MONUSCO in the amount of $3,410,352 in September 2010.
The work description are all vague, typically simply stating “UGA Airports.”
In July, The Black Star News submitted several written questions via e-mail message to Ban Ki-Moon and to his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric about the UN contract with ENHAS. The Black Star News also copied the questions to deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq and to the UN’s legal department.
Ban Ki-Moon and the spokesperson and the legal department didn’t respond to the detailed written questions.
Fortunately, The Black Star News downloaded information, including the invoice numbers and dollar amounts submitted by ENHAS before the following links were disabled from the UN’s website:
Link for 2008 invoices: http://www.un.org/depts/ptd/08_others_po_field.htm
Link for 2009 invoices: http://www.un.org/depts/ptd/09_others_po_field.htm
Link for 2010 invoices: http://www.un.org/depts/ptd/10_others_po_field.htm
Link for 2011 invoices: http://www.un.org/depts/ptd/11_field_po_others.htm
Link for 2013 invoices: http://www.un.org/depts/ptd/13_field_po_others.htm
ENHAS, an airport maintenance and cargo handling services company is based in Entebbe, Uganda. Kutesa reportedly gained control of the company improperly in the 1990s, and owned it with Gen. Salim Saleh, a top Uganda general and brother of the president, Gen. Yoweri Museveni.
The contract awarded to ENHAS beginning in 2006 was to provide services in at least 10 airports used for United Nations peace keeping operations in the Congo; a separate contract covers servicing peace-keepers in South Sudan.
The Congo operation was previously referred to by the acronym MUNOC; when that operation’s term expired it was succeeded by the current mission, MONUSCO.
The billings from ENHAS, Kutesa’s company, were first to MONUC and later to MONUSCO.
A review and tabulation by The Black Star News shows a total billing by Kutesa’s company to the tune of $29,192,078.
The breakdown, over a six-year period were as follows: $5,016,702 (in 2008); $5,499,776 (2009); $4,945,352 (in 2010); $5,036,520 (in 2011); $5,471,660 (in 2012); and, $3,220,068 (2013).
The Black Star News’s couldn’t determine billings for 2006 when the UN contract to ENHAS was first awarded and for 2007; billings from January 2014 up to day also couldn’t be determined. This means the total could be much higher.
The billings by ENHAS to MONUC, for 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 came to $20,500,350. The balance of the billings, $8,691,728 for 2012 and 2013 were mostly to MONUSCO.
In addition to potential conflict of interest and possible fraud by not disclosing, as Uganda’s foreign affairs minister, that he was an owner of ENHAS, which subsequently was awarded multi-million dollar UN contracts, Kutesa faces even broader questions of business ethics.
The UN’s MUNOC and MONUSCO operations were launched to halt war in which Uganda was a belligerent party. In 2005 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Uganda had launched a war of aggression against Congo and committed war crimes. Uganda was ordered to pay $6 billion to $10 billion in reparations and the International Criminal Court also launched an investigation which Gen. Museveni asked then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to block, The Wall Street Journal reported on June 8, 2006.
By providing services for the UN’s peace-keeping operations in Congo beginning in 2006, it means Kutesa, as foreign minister of a belligerent party, profited handsomely from the war.
ENHAS also currently provides services for the UN’s mission in South Sudan, which also benefits Kutesa’s bottomline. Uganda’s army is fighting on behalf of South Sudan President Salvar Kiir against former Vice President Riek Machar. Uganda’s army controls Juba airport, which is handled by ENHAS.
Ban Ki-Moon and his spokespersons also didn’t address these issues when The Black Star News inquired.
Additionally, the UN, including the legal department, didn’t respond to a question about whether the organization would revoke the contract and seek to recover monies if the contract to ENHAS was improperly awarded.
It’s also unclear why a UN spokesperson previously misled The Black Star News in an e-mail message, stating that the UN had no contracts with Kutesa’s company, ENHAS.
The billing information reviewed by The Black Star News don’t provide much detail about the nature of the work performed by ENHAS and the UN Secretary General’s spokesperson also didn’t provide additional information requested.
A UN official who spoke on condition of anonymity wondered how the payments to Kutesa was disbursed: “Was the money sent to Uganda? Was it sent to a foreign bank account and would this contravene laws? Kutesa could not have been making all that money for himself alone.”
Corruption allegations have trailed Kutesa from the 1990s, and in 1999, Uganda’s Parliament voted to censure him for conflict of interest in connection with how, through ENHAS, while a government minister, he diverted resources from Uganda Airlines for the benefit of his company.
When Dick Turinawe, then acting general manager of the airline, which had a joint operating agreement with ENHAS, demanded financial accounting, Kutesa threatened to kill him, Uganda’s Parliament was told. The national carrier subsequently collapsed. When The Black Star news published an article earlier this year and linked to the transcript of the debate on Uganda’s Parliamentary website it was disabled, before being restored days later.
Kutesa was accused of involvement in embezzlement of millions of dollars in funds allocated for Uganda to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) in 2007.
In a memo to the State Department later published on WikiLeaks, former U.S. ambassador to Uganda Jerry Lanier disclosed that the U.K. government had considered sanctions against Kutesa over the alleged Chogm embezzlement.
In the January 13, 2010 memo, Lanier in part wrote that “The U.K. is considering visa restrictions for senior Ugandan officials guilty of misusing $27 million allocated to the November 2007 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala. The British say their primary target is Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa….” The Lanier memo also added, “We regard Kutesa’s corruption as egregious….”
Kutesa was also accused in Uganda’s Parliament of accepting millions of dollars in bribes from foreign oil companies.
Kutesa belongs to an elite group of untouchables in Uganda. His daughter is married to Brigadier Muhoozi Kaenerugaba, Gen. Museveni’s son, and commander of Uganda’s Special Forces. It’s widely believed Museveni is grooming Kaenerugaba for succession.
Kutesa was elected UN General Assembly President in June after surviving a challenge sparked by an online petition campaign that garnered more than 15,000 signatures and opposed his candidacy due to, in addition to corruption, his backing of Uganda’s anti-Gay law which contravenes the UN’s principles ensuring universal human rights.
Now he faces questions about his business practices involving ENHAS and the United Nations. The UN itself now faces questions about the sudden disablement of the links to ENHAS invoices. It appears some of the corrupt practices Kutesa has become notorious for in Uganda, as noted in ambassador Lanier’s memo, have arrived with him on Ban ki-Moon’s door steps at UN headquarters.
The Black Star News couldn’t reach Kutesa through the United Nations this evening.
Editor’s Note: Readers including U.S taxpayers should call Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s office at (212) 963 1234 and inquire about the possible abuse of their money and also tell their members of Congress to demand answers from the U.N.