MPs dismiss Otafiire’s report on wildlife agency

TESTIFIED: Mr Mapesa at Parliament yesterday.

MPs have said the sacking of the Executive Director of the Uganda Wildlife Authority, Mr Moses Mapesa, is part of a wider scheme by some members of the agency’s board and some top officials in the Tourism Ministry to swindle money.
The Tourism, Trade and Industry committee of Parliament also dismissed a five-person investigation team inaugurated by Minister Kahinda Otafiire to look into allegations of corruption following the sacking of Mr Mapesa and his senior management team.

Where it began
About two months ago, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire and the UWA board chairman, Dr Boysier Muballe, sacked Mr Mapesa and other two officials; Ms Apophia Atukunda and Mr Joseph Koluo, accusing them of corruption.

The minister also said Mr Mapesa had failed to alert the authorities about the existence of rebels in Bwindi and Semliki parks in western Uganda. But MP John Emily Otekat yesterday said: “Some people in the board working together with senior people in the ministry fired Mr Mapesa because they want to dip their hands into the money that is available at UWA.”

MPs Simon Tolit and Charles Ekemu said Mr Mapesa’s sacking was irregular.
A former board chairman, Mr Andrew Kasirye, yesterday appeared before the committee and said at any one time there is no less than $4 billion on UWA’s various accounts—making MPs conclude that it could be the cash bounty targeted by the officials.

Mr Kasirye, a prominent city lawyer, said during his tenure, he spent more time watching over the money as “vultures” were always lurking.
“There is a lot of money at UWA than in any other institution I know of in this country. Sometimes I could get calls from banks to have that money invested because it is lying idle although it generates interest.”

Rebels claim
On claims that Mr Mapesa concealed the presence of rebels, Mr Kasirye said they were unfortunate since security agencies knew about the situation.
The lawyer also described the appointment of the new executive director, Mr Mark Kamanzi, as irregular because the position was not properly advertised. He added that Mr Mapesa’s term had just been renewed because of his impeccable performance.

MPs also dismissed a forensic report recommended by the board and inaugurated by Maj. Gen. Otafiire, saying the motive of the report was to pin Mr Mapesa and his team. The MPs said they could not table the report in Parliament as had been requested by the minister, saying it was biased.

The committee chairman, Mr John Bosco Lubyayi, said the Auditor General will be asked to carry out an independent audit. Mr Mapesa, who appeared with his sacked team, said they hoped UWA would be run professionally without intimidation. He said he looked forward to resuming office so that he can hand over peacefully.

When he was sacked in August, Mr Mapesa sued the AG, UWA and four board members. The matter is still before court.


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