Uganda launches new System to tackle gorilla permit fraud

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Uganda, the land of diverse wildlife and stunning natural landscapes, has recently taken a significant step towards preserving its natural heritage. The government has launched a new system aimed at tackling gorilla permit fraud, a menace that has threatened the conservation efforts in the country.

This groundbreaking move comes as a response to allegations of fraud surrounding gorilla and chimpanzee permits issued by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA).

Uganda launches new System to tackle gorilla permit fraud
Uganda launches new System to tackle gorilla permit fraud.

Hon. Martin Mugarra, the Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities, unveiled the new booking and revenue collection system, which is set to revolutionize the way permits are obtained and monitored. The system marks a significant milestone in Uganda’s commitment to sustainable tourism and conservation practices.

Gorilla and chimpanzee permits are highly sought after by both locals and foreign nationals who wish to experience the thrill of tracking these magnificent creatures in their natural habitats. However, the previous permit booking system had been marred by fraudulent activities, with some unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of loopholes to exploit the demand for these permits.

“The new system will replace the abused gorilla and chimpanzee permit booking system,” stated Hon. Mugarra. This means that individuals attempting to defraud the system will face strict consequences as the government endeavors to curb fraudulent activities and safeguard the conservation efforts in Uganda.

These endeavors come in the wake of recent allegations of fraud within the UWA. Hon. Moses Kamuntu, a Member of Parliament representing Rubanda County, brought the issue to light and called for a thorough investigation into the matter. In response, the Ministry of Tourism launched an internal audit to uncover the extent of the fraudulent activities. The audit, which covered the period between June and August 2023, revealed alarming findings.

“The alleged fraud was detected internally by UWA. Consequently, the Executive Director commissioned an internal audit,” revealed Hon. Mugarra. This bold move showcases the government’s commitment to maintaining the integrity of Uganda’s wildlife tourism sector. Any staff or tour companies implicated in the fraudulent activities will face prosecution in the courts of law, ensuring that justice is served and that such illicit practices are eradicated.

In a statement, Mugarra conveyed that the initial findings suggest the possibility of fraudulent activities involving certain personnel from the reservations, finance, and information technology departments at the head office, as well as some field staff.

In response to these findings, UWA has initiated a secondary investigation, which includes members from the investigations unit and the Uganda Police Force. These investigations are still ongoing, and the results will guide our future actions.

Uganda launches new System to tackle gorilla permit fraud
Uganda launches new System to tackle gorilla permit fraud.

Mugarra further informed that, as a precautionary measure, fourteen employees suspected of involvement have been suspended pending the completion of the investigations.

Additionally, there are indications that certain tour companies may have played a role in the alleged fraud. Further investigations are being conducted to ascertain their level of involvement. Any staff or tour companies found to be implicated will face legal prosecution.

Mugarra also mentioned that the Ministry of Trade has requested the Auditor General to conduct a comprehensive forensic audit covering the period from July 2020 to September 2023. This audit will specifically focus on gorilla and chimpanzee bookings at Bwindi, Mgahinga, and Kibale national parks, as well as Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth national park.

Mugarra assured that the detailed findings of the investigations will be presented within one month.

Hon. Mary Begumisa (NRM, Sembabule District) urged the minister to engage with tour operators to ensure a thorough investigative report. She emphasized the importance of involving all stakeholders in the tourism industry to achieve comprehensive results.

Deputy Speaker, Tayebwa, advised the House to refrain from debating the statement at this time to allow for the ongoing investigations to proceed without interruption.

Esther Jazmine
Esther Jasmine is a highly esteemed East African correspondent for Who Owns Africa, who has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to providing valuable information and insightful analysis. Her coverage of the dynamic realms of business, politics, governance, and current affairs is truly exceptional. Esther's passion for uncovering the truth is evident in her unique perspective and her ability to analyze and dissect current affairs with great skill. She possesses a deep understanding of the complexities and nuances of the political and business landscapes of East Africa.

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