By Simon Turibamwe
In a petition to Parliament, a whistle blower has exposed what he/she considers to be areas calling for urgent intervention to prevent the management situation at Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) from degenerating from bad to worse. The whistle blower indicates there is anxiety among staff members and other stakeholders who remain uncomfortable with the manner in which line Minister Ephraim Kamuntu recently extended the mandate of the governing board to serve for another 6 months. Their two term unrenewable mandate had expired on 24th February 2019 but Kamuntu controversially extended it. Chaired by former tourism ministry PS Mzee Ben Otto, the disputed Board comprises of Dr. Panta Kasoma, Zerudia Zigiti, Barirega Akankwatsa, Dr. Diana Nalwanga, ex-MP Edward Baliddawa, Eng Ivan Batuma, Benon Kagumaho, Leonard Wamakote and the ED Sam Mwanda. Many of them are in their 2nd term which the whistle blower says makes them ineligible to stay. The whistle blower says the current members are very unsuitable for retention for even a day partly because of their bad track record that saw them curiously defend ex-UWA ED Dr. Andrew Seguya when his team faced investigations relating to the loss of 1.3 tons of ivory from UWA stores and as well as the controversial death of 7 poachers in Murchison Falls and rampant smuggling. The current 8th board has also faced stinging criticism for extravagant spending of government money on nugatory recruitment processes and not so very important trips abroad. That some board members have been exceeding their mandate by over involving themselves in the daily running of UWA including participation in staff transfers and promotions. The whistle blower places much of this blame on Commissioner Barirega Akankwatsa who represents the Tourism Ministry on the Board. That he is more frequent at UWA than at his work place near High Court. That he asks petty questions regarding staff recruitment and deployment including cleaners and messengers at UWA. The whistle blower says this has made prospective recruits to frequently seek audience with Akankwatsa construing him to be very influential in UWA decision-making. The whistle blower equally implicates Akankwatsa’s fellow HR Committee members namely Diana Nalwanga and Leonard Wamakote who UWA management bosses often facilitate for luxurious weekend get-aways with his spouse in the national game parks. That the trio recently excessively spent UWA money on the recruitment process for Murchison Falls Chief Warden after the incumbent Tom Okello exited to go and work with NFA. That for example after a rigorous costly interview process, the trio wastefully cancelled the entire process and decreed to have it repeated after wasting time for more than 12 interviewees who had shown keen interest working with UWA. Lots of cash was spent on newspaper adverts and the whistle blower says the recruitment of chief warden was another exercise on which another nugatory expenditure was incurred. The whistle blower talks about the Shs40m cash bonanza that became common talk as one of the former EDs fought to have his contract renewed. The whistle blower also invites Parliament to reflect on the Shs1bn that had been allocated for the removal of invasive species from Queen Elizabeth National Park where very little work was done yet the money was expended. That consequently, tourism revenues declined in Queen Elizabeth as a result of this anomalous failure to clear away the invasive species as per the motive for the Shs1bn allocation. The petitioner also refers to the dubious inflation of the Kanjokya Wildlife Tower construction project cost from Shs17bn to a very questionable Shs21bn. To the whistle blower, all these show that Mzee Otto’s board is too unsuitable for retention. He also invites Parliament to question the circumstances under which the same board has dubiously been departing from its own recruitment policy requiring all wardens and UWA officers to be degree holders and managers to possess post graduate qualifications. Specifically the whistle blower alleges that having received gratifications, some board members voted to have Tourism Warden Agnes Nakidde reappointed to the position from which she had previously resigned for want of qualifications. He also urges Parliament to ask tough questions aimed at establishing whether two other senior managers namely Aggrey Rwetsiba and Samuel Besigye have the minimum qualifications of master’s degree as per the requirements proclaimed by the same Ben Otto board.
Parliament is also urged to inquire into why UWA management continues to generously fund Board members’ luxury foreign trips at the expense of remunerating the 490 newly recruited rangers who recently went without salary for two straight months. The whistle blower also disputes the circumstances under which former Buyende local government employee Irene Mudondo came to recently be recruited for a juicy job in UWA without her HR Director Jacqueline Bakobaki-related conflict of interest being disclosed. The other recruitment the whistle blower categorizes as controversial is that of Isaiah Bwire who was curiously hired as Executive Assistant in the Executive Director’s office. The whistle blower says it’s uniquely interesting that Bwire comes from ED Sam Mwanda’s home area unlike long serving Barbara Ndagire who has been relegated for him to take his place. For comments, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755.