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New Booking System to Tackle Gorilla Permit Fraud Unveiled in Uganda

new booking system to tackle gorilla permit fraud unveiled in uganda
new booking system to tackle gorilla permit fraud unveiled in uganda
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The Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Hon. Martin Mugarra, announced that the government has begun implementing a new booking and revenue collection system by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to combat fraud related to gorilla permits.

Gorilla and chimpanzee permits are issued by UWA to both local and foreign nationals for tracking activities. Hon. Mugarra stated, “The new system will replace the previous gorilla and chimpanzee permit booking system that was prone to abuse.”

The Minister made this disclosure while addressing allegations of fraud within UWA, which led to investigations involving some staff members. This announcement was made during a plenary session chaired by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa on Thursday, October 5, 2023.

On October 4, 2023, Hon. Moses Kamuntu, Member of Parliament for Rubanda County, called for investigations into allegations of fraud related to gorilla and chimpanzee permits.

Mugarra explained that the ministry is currently investigating these allegations, which were initially detected by UWA internally. He mentioned, “The Executive Director initiated an internal audit, covering the period from June to August 2023.”

Preliminary findings indicated possible fraud involving certain staff members from the reservations, finance, and information technology departments at the head office, as well as some field staff. Mugarra added, “Following these findings, UWA initiated a more detailed investigation involving members of the investigations unit and the Uganda Police Force. The investigations are ongoing, and the results will determine the next steps.”

He also noted, “Fourteen suspected staff members have been suspended to facilitate the investigations.”

Mugarra raised the possibility that some tour companies may have been implicated in the reported fraud. He stated, “Further investigations are being conducted to ascertain their involvement. Any staff members or tour companies found to be involved will face legal prosecution.”

The Minister shared that the Ministry of Trade has requested the Auditor General to conduct a comprehensive forensic audit, covering gorilla and chimpanzee bookings at Bwindi, Mgahinga, Kibale national parks, and Kyambura Gorge in Queen Elizabeth national park, spanning from July 2020 to September 2023.

He assured that detailed findings from the investigations would be presented within one month.

Hon. Mary Begumisa (NRM, Sembabule District) encouraged the minister to engage with tour operators to ensure a thorough investigative report. She said, “Complete investigations can be achieved by involving all stakeholders in the tourism industry.”

Deputy Speaker Tayebwa recommended that debate on the statement be postponed to allow ongoing investigations to continue.