UGX60 BILLION FAKE GORILLA PERMITS SCANDAL: 14 UGANDA WILDLIFE AUTHORITY STAFF SUSPENDED

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Fourteen (14) Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA staff have been suspended over allegations related to the issuance of fake gorilla permits.

Fourteen (14) Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA staff have been suspended over allegations related to the issuance of fake gorilla permits though their names are still being concealed by UWA authorities.
The suspension is a measure to facilitate a thorough investigation into a significant financial scandal of Ugx60 billion, according to the Tourism State Minister Martin Mugarra while appearing in a plenary session on Thursday, October 5, 2023.
WHAT TRANSPIRE? Sources indicate that the accused individuals, who are employed in the booking department, are facing accusations of providing fraudulent gorilla permits to unsuspecting tourists over a period spanning three years.
“Based on our findings, approximately 500 million shillings may have been lost over the course of three months. We have identified around 14 of our staff as suspects, and there are indications that some tour companies may have also been involved in this fraud. Further investigations are underway to determine their roles in this illicit activity,” Minister Mugarra explains.

The Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is a large primeval forest located in south-western Uganda in the Kanungu District. The Bwindi forest is on the edge of the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift, at elevations ranging from 1,160 to 2,607 metres.

The Ministry of Tourism has also formally requested the Office of the Auditor General to conduct an extensive forensic audit, covering the period from July 2020 to September 2023, encompassing gorilla bookings at Bwindi and Mgahinga National Parks, as well as Kyambura Lodge in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

The Auditor General John Muwanga and his team have been urged to swiftly conclude the investigation within one month and implement a new booking and revenue collection system to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. Debate on the matter has now been temporarily suspended, with concerns that discussing it openly could jeopardize ongoing investigations, following a procedural point raised by Sembabule District Woman MP Mary Begumisa who also emphasized the importance of protecting Uganda’s tourism image.
Minister Mugarra’s comments followed a directive from Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa, who expressed the need for transparency regarding the matter while ensuring it does not hinder ongoing investigations.

UNDER NORMAL & TRANSPARENT CIRCUMSTANCES: A gorilla tracking permit is an official document that grants permission to visit a sanctuary housing these unique creatures. In 2023/24, the cost of a gorilla tracking permit in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is $700 for foreign non-residents, $600 for foreign residents, and 250,000 shillings for East African residents.
For travelers desiring an extended experience with mountain gorillas, a habituation permit is available at a cost of $1,500 for foreign non-residents, $1,000 for foreign residents and 750,000 shillings for East African citizens.
In 2018/2019, UWA generated over $25 million in revenue from issuing permits for approximately 40,000 gorilla tours. This marked a substantial 40% increase compared to previous years, according to official documents.
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