The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) has apologised for extortion complaints levelled against officials at Entebbe International Airport. The authority has since pledged to reinforce the supervision of immigration officials.
This week, Uganda’s social media spheres have been awash with allegations from travellers who claim that some immigration officers demand bribes before clearing them to take flights. The authority admitted that there were cases of extortion that were thoroughly investigated and disciplinary action taken against those found culpable.
Emmanuel Barungi, Entebbe airport general manager said that they have noted the complaints and said that where such incidents could have happened, they were regrettable. He said that they will step up supervision to ensure acts of extortion are curbed.
According to UCAA, some of the airport personnel do not report directly to the authority but to other service providers that include, including handling agents (NAS and DAS), airlines, ministry of Health through port health, security agencies, Uganda Revenue Authority customs, and ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (Labour externalization agents), among others.
However, in cases reported, UCAA management said in a statement on Thursday, that they have been and would be thoroughly investigated and disciplinary action taken against those found culpable.
A traveller who spoke on condition of anonymity says that no specific amount of money is demanded but it ranges between $100 and $500 depending on the person querying and the nature of the query. The victims may then, after negotiations, be directed to a disguised person to hand over the money.
The source says that the alternative is to refuse to pay the amount and miss the flight. But usually, a traveller weighing between losing money for another air ticket, and also getting late for the scheduled business, chooses to pay the bribe and save themselves the bigger bother.
But Barungi said that any airport staff demanding money from travellers is committing an illegal act. In March last year, three officials were arrested by the State House Anti-Corruption Unit after a refugee missed a flight ending up spending another $1,800 for another air ticket. UCAA has cautioned travellers against paying bribes to any staff for any favours, adding that the traveller could equally be held liable for the act.