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INVESTIGATION: How MultiChoice Staff Diddled Customers in Fixed Exchange Rate Subscriptions

Distressed workers of MultiChoice Uganda, a subsidiary of South Africa-based MultiChoice, are protesting over unfair suspension from work and a planned move to relieve them of their duties.

But the story about this case is more than an internal human resource matter, according to confidential records obtained by ChimpReports Investigations Team.

Between November 2015 and November 2016, Uganda faced increased volatility of exchange rates.

According to some Multichoice Uganda (MCU) staff, the company decided to exploit the situation.

MultiChoice responded by setting the prices high in shillings yet reported the collections to the main office in South Africa in dollars.

For example the price for premium was set at Shs 375,000 with fixed exchange rate of Shs 3,750.

Yet, the market rate was ranging between Shs 3,200 to Shs 3,300.

This means MultiChoice Uganda had approximately Shs 40,000 on each subscription.

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“This happened for a full year but several agents noticed MultiChoice Uganda was making lots of money. So, they would receive the shillings from the customers then go to a Forex Bureau, change it to dollars and post dollars on the MultiChoice Uganda system and retain the balance,” said a former staff whose testimony is expected to make a key ingredient of a labour suit against the company.

MultiChoice Uganda publicist Tina Wamala said she would not comment on this saga.

“This is a matter before court,” said Wamala when contacted for a response.

“I can’t comment,” she added.

ChimpReports has discovered that upon realizing that agents were discreetly benefiting from DSTV subscriptions, MultiChoice Uganda boss Charles Hamya ordered an internal investigation.

The findings appear to have implicated some staff who were suspended from work pending the next course of action.

But the suspended staff say instead of doing a proper investigation, MultiChoice Uganda “instead decided to suspend all the cashiers who worked during that period.”

This saga could raise concerns that DSTV customers were cheated from inflated subscription fees for a staggering 12 months.

We are informed over 20 cashiers were called for a disciplinary hearing.

“But we suspected they had plans of firing us. So with advice from one of the managers we got lawyers to represent us (Owen Murangira and Co. ADVOCATES). MultiChoice decided to drop the case and called us back to work but demoted us,” said one of the affected staff.

While MultiChoice maintained a dollar fixed exchange rate for the whole year at Shs 3,750, the market rate rated ranged between Shs 3,200 to Shs 3,300 maximum
While MultiChoice maintained a dollar fixed exchange rate for the whole year at Shs 3,750; the market rate ranged between Shs 3,200 to Shs 3,300 maximum

“We took the matter to the Labour office seeking help, but case was frustrated.  We reported our issues in April but up to now all they say is the officer is too busy to write a report.”

ChimpReports has seen a letter authored by MultiChoice lawyers, asking the General Manager Charles Hamya for evidence or documents to be relied on to prosecute the accused persons.

“Our clients were suspended from work on February 3 on alleged investigation into their respective notifications. The Employment Act of Uganda, 2006 under Section 63 (2) requires that, “Any suspension under subsection (1) shall not exceed four weeks or the duration of the inquiry, whichever his shorter. Four weeks ended March 3, 2017,” reads part of the lawyers’ letter to Hamya.

“The purpose of this letter therefore is to inform you about the above breach and the demand for damages our clients maintain have suffered in the sums of Shs 1.3bn for the embarrassment, stress, and inconvenience among others which they state they have suffered and continue to suffer.”

The lawyers cited Article 42 of the Constitution which provides that “any person appearing before any administrative official or a body has a right to be treated justly and fairly and shall have a right to apply to Court of law in respect of administrative decision taken against him or her.”

One of MultiChoice’s brands is DStv, a pay-TV service providing customers with channels that cover general entertainment, movies, lifestyle and culture, sport, documentaries, news, music and religion.

At the KCCA Labour Office in Kampala today Monday, some of the protesting staff were told to wait for a week.

“So are we guaranteed that a report on our case will be ready by the end of this week?” one of the suspended MultiChoice staff inquired.

“Yes, we will try our best to handle it,” a KCCA staff responded.

The report from the Labour office will be used as a basis for proceedings as MultiChoice in the Industrial Court.

Lawyers representing MultiChoice workers now want the company to provide documents providing for its “U.S. Dollar fixed exchange rate and market rate for the period in issue of 2015 October to 2016 October.”

They also want MultiChoice’s management and audited books of accounts for the years in question and “carbon receipt books/documents from where the original copies are given to the client for the years in question.”

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