Uganda’s Wildlife Authority Fights Gorilla Permit Fraud with New System and Ongoing Investigations

The Minister of State for Tourism, Wildlife, and Antiquities, Hon. Martin Mugarra, announced the initiation of a new booking and revenue collection system by the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) to combat fraud related to gorilla permits. Gorilla and chimpanzee permits, issued by UWA for tracking activities, will now be managed through this new system, replacing the previously abused booking system. The Minister revealed this development during a plenary session chaired by Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa, on Thursday, October 5, 2023.

The move comes in response to allegations of fraud within UWA, which were brought to light by Rubanda County Member of Parliament, Hon. Moses Kamuntu, on October 4, 2023. The Minister stated that the ministry is actively investigating these allegations, with a focus on staff from UWA’s reservations, finance, and information technology departments at the head office, as well as some field staff. A preliminary internal audit revealed potential fraud orchestrated by certain staff members.

To facilitate a thorough investigation, fourteen suspected staff have been suspended. Additionally, the involvement of tour companies in the reported fraud is being explored, with plans to prosecute implicated staff and tour companies in court. The Trade Ministry has also requested the Auditor General to conduct a comprehensive forensic audit, covering gorilla and chimpanzee bookings at various national parks from July 2020 to September 2023.

Minister Mugarra assured the Parliament that detailed findings from these investigations would be presented within a month. Despite calls for immediate parliamentary debate by Hon. Mary Begumisa (NRM, Sembabule District), Deputy Speaker Tayebwa guided the House to stay the debate, allowing investigations to progress further. The engagement with tour operators was also encouraged to ensure a comprehensive investigative report in collaboration with the tourism industry investors.