Addressing UWA staff suspension in the gorilla scandal

Jasper Tumuhimbise

What you need to know:

  • We must establish clear communication with all Tour and Travel companies, emphasizing the importance of obtaining clearances before transporting tourists.  

In light of the ongoing situation involving the suspension of Uganda Wildlife Authority staff over billions of shillings in the gorilla tracking scandal, it is imperative that we take decisive steps to address this issue and prevent such occurrences in the future. 
This further tarnishes the already bad name Uganda has in regard to corruption and it is a disservice to marketing tourism in the medium run.

There are majorly three ways of tackling fraud in any system; the first being preventive, where a company instills particular systems in place to mitigate potential and future occurrences; secondly is responsive, where an entity lays out mechanisms to clearly make a riposte to past frauds and present realities. Thirdly is combative, where a company intentionally waits to deal with occurrences of fraud as they manifest, however this is rather a post mortem as there is already a loss incurred. 

In Uganda we are used to the second and third approaches with miserable results that are now a definition of Uganda’s public service.
This article outlines a series of solutions aimed at automating processes, minimizing collusion, eliminating cash payments, implementing time-bound tracking, and improving communication with our valued national clients, the tourists. What comes in as national income from gorilla tracking was highlighted in the papers as more than ‘gold’.

1. Automation for efficiency: To ensure the utmost efficiency and transparency within the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), we propose the automation of all processes, from marketing to entry, using an electronic code system. This will not only streamline operations but also reduce the risk of fraudulent activities that come due to human contact.

2. Transparency with tour and travel companies: We must establish clear communication with all Tour and Travel companies, emphasizing the importance of obtaining clearances before transporting tourists. By doing so, we minimize the chances of collusion and enhance accountability in the industry. Any tour company that goes to the contrary should be blacklisted and deregistered. 

 3. Going cashless for accountability: In a bid to enhance accountability and transparency, it is crucial to eliminate cash payments entirely. All transactions should be conducted electronically, ensuring that every clearance is quickly captured as Non-Tax Revenue. This step will significantly reduce the opportunity for financial misconduct. Electronic receipts with unique codes can be issued and they will be the basis of entry.

 4. Implementing time-bound tracking: One glaring issue in the ongoing scandal is the lack of time-bound tracking. To address this, we propose implementing a system that tracks financial activities on a monthly basis. By doing so, we can swiftly detect irregularities and take corrective measures, preventing fraud from persisting for years. Any future habituation of more families of Gorillas will depend on demand and supply forces taking caution that we still want some families with no or minimal human contact to preserve nature in the original state.

5. Clear communication with tourists: Our national clients, the tourists, deserve clear and concise information on how, when, and where they are expected to make payments. We can take inspiration from visa application centers, where a single, well-defined process is in place. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from UWA can provide invaluable assistance in this regard, eliminating the need for tour companies to act as intermediaries in payment processes.

In conclusion, these solutions are designed to address the ongoing issue at hand and ensure that such scandals do not tarnish the reputation of the Uganda Wildlife Authority in the future. By embracing automation, transparency, and clear communication, we can protect our natural treasures and maintain the trust of our national and international visitors. Together, we can move forward towards a more accountable and responsible UWA.

Rev. Jasper Mpiriirwe Tumuhimbise, GCEO Church Commissioner Holding Company Limited, the investment arm of the Church of Uganda.