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INSIDE STORY: Dr Seguya Pays Price for Fighting to Get UWA From the Brink

UWA Executive Director, Dr. Andrew Seguya

In November 2012, viagra 40mg Dr Andrew Seguya, who had worked as a senior veterinary officer in the government of Botswana before serving as Executive Director of Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC) for five years, took over as Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) boss.

Seguya inherited a chaotic institution whereby one had to look into the tea girl’s eye before accepting a cup of coffee.

The institution had turned into a den of thieves, with collections from national parks being swindled with impunity.

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The Protected Areas Management and Sustainable Use (PAMSU) project meant to boost infrastructure in 10 national parks and 12 wildlife reserves saw the bulk of the nearly Shs 100bn simply abused and swindled.

Retired Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba who led the probe into PAMSU plunder said it was “heart rending to see ministers and technocrats who should have supervised and managed the project to the letter exhibit ignorance,” adding that his findings proved that “the country is simply living by God’s grace.”

Following the exit of Dr Moses Mapesa and Kanyeihamba’s inquiry that exposed the rot, government had to quickly find someone to take over the mantle to restore confidence among donors and streamline the tourism body’s operations.

UWA manages 10 parks which include Bwindi impenetrable, Rwenzori Mountains, Mt. Elgon and Elizabeth National Parks among others.

The rise of Seguya

Upon arrival at his workplace, Seguya would later appreciate the fact that several people in the tourism industry badly wanted his job.

Highly placed sources told ChimpReports the exit of Moses Mapesa and Mark Kamanzi as Executive Director and Director Legal and Corporate respectively birthed internal intrigue in UWA which was fuelled by external forces.

It’s understood that some UWA officials who had previously been participants in the defrauding of the organisation, which was largely curtailed by the new administration, started fighting Seguya.

Matters were worsened by the appointment of Mr Makombo as director after losing the UWA top job to Dr Seguya.

On his part, Seguya wanted a clean and smart way of doing business.

Carrying large sums of bullion cash between these protected areas presented enormous challenges including insecurity and fraud.

In the past, UWA lost two accountants to armed robbery and had been hit by fraud owing to temptations of having large sums of cash in the bush.

Bwindi Impenetrable has some of best species of gorillas in the world

Bwindi Impenetrable has some of best species of gorillas in the world

Counting and validating large sums of cash was also time wasting; on many occasions the organization lost revenue from counterfeit notes.

Walk-in clients would also be discouraged from making bookings by withdrawal limitations at ATMs.

This was also eroding UWA’s core function to sustainably manage all wildlife and protected areas in the country.

Tour operators and guides were colluding to under-declare the numbers of tourists visiting the parks.

Wildlife Card

Under Seguya’s leadership, UWA introduced the Wildlife Card that transfers virtual money to your card on payment at headquarters in Kampala.

Equipped with a microchip which has details of your payments, for example gorilla, permits, park entrances, boat, and other fees, the card does not require Internet connectivity in order to function.

Murchison Falls National Park for example has six gates which previously necessitated driving up to 500 km back and forth.

With the cashless system, such transactions could now be monitored and reconciled on a dashboard, and in addition there were no hassles in determining the day’s exchange rate.

In its first quarter of introduction in Bwindi National Park, UWA realised Shs 2 billion over and above their normal collections, which grew to Shs 8 billion (150 percent increase).

Seguya found UWA collecting about Shs 29bn annually but the figure now stands at Shs 66bn.

While the cashless payment system was welcomed globally, many saw it as an effort to deny them a livelihood.

Fight

The battle lines were drawn.

UWA officials resorted to false whistleblowing to different security agencies and other organisations such as the Inspectoral of Government to probe Seguya.

As the fight raged on, Seguya did not waver.

A tourist captures moments at Queen Elizabeth National Park

A tourist captures moments at Queen Elizabeth National Park

He, instead, went ahead to roll out the Computerised Gorilla permits system which allowed the tourism body to record purchased gorilla permits directly onto the Wildlife Card.

This was a massive crackdown on the forging of gorilla tracking paper permits which was leading to financial loss.

“The tour operators would lie to tourists that gorilla permits are hard to access hence hiking their price. But with the cashless payment system and availability of information on the website eased the payments hence the surge in UWA revenues,” recalled a high ranking UWA official who preferred to speak to us on condition of anonymity.

The online Gorilla booking system saw intending tourists book for their permits in the comfort of their homes and offices from all over the world at any time of the day or night just like one does with airline tickets.

However, tour operators who had earlier benefitted from expensive permits argued the new system would hurt their businesses.

The insisted on remaining the only source of information on the availability and access of the gorilla permits, fuelling a war between Seguya and the private sector.

Revenue Tracking System

The more Seguya rolled out new systems, the more he drew fire from tour operators led by Boniface Byamukama and an intelligence officer only identified as Katungi.

UWA went ahead to unveil a system of verifying concessionaire income as part of the smartcard system.

Using the Wildlife Card, occupancy in accommodation facilities in the National Parks would be automatically recorded and billed, eliminating revenue pilferage from under declarations of accommodations.

This was met with stiff resistance from the private sector who are the beneficiaries of the concessionaires in the parks.

UWA would later stop the reimbursing of $10 per gorilla permit sold, to AUTO (association of Uganda Tour Operators).

Seguya’s administration reasoned that there was no need for them to reimburse funds to the private sector since there had never existed an agreement between the two organisations to share money.

This deepened the rift between Seguya and private operators who saw him as an enemy of the revenue sharing arrangement.

Museveni probe

Therefore, when President Museveni last month directed the IGG to investigate Seguya over the theft of ivory from the stores and conniving with Chinese diplomats to sell ivory in China, many who were briefed about the intrigue at UWA were not surprised.

In his May 2 letter, Museveni accused two Chinese diplomats named Li Wejin and one Yinzhi of involvement in the illegal sale of ivory smuggled from the Democratic Republic of Congo yet the alleged officials had never worked with the Embassy.

Contacted by ChimpReports for comment, Seguya said he was attending a function in Mbarara.

He, however, said the media would soon get a full brief on the developments at UWA.

The president wants an investigation into the illegal export of pangolin (olugave), murders in the national parks, and procurement of gorilla tracking software

The Observer this week quoted UWA spokesman Simplicious Gessa as saying no laws were flouted in the disposal of some pangolin.

A lion at the national park

A lion at the national park

According to Gessa, in July 2014, UWA recommended one Smith Ewa Maku, a Ugandan national and proprietor of SmicoSkin Craft Industries Ltd, to the ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities for licenses to export 7,310kg of the giant pangolin in accordance with Section 29 of the Uganda Wildlife Act.

“Permits to export wildlife products are not issued by UWA; it is the mandate of the ministry of Tourism Wildlife and Antiquities. UWA’s role is only advisory,” he observed.

The said export, Gessa said, was carried out before the Convention on international Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) changed the pangolin’s classification from CITES Appendix II, which allowed regulated trade.

“Lifting of all pangolin species to Appendix I came in January 2017 after the CITES conference of parties in 2016 which was held in South Africa. We [UWA] particularly supported the proposal to upgrade pangolin species to Appendix I,” Gessa said.

Prior to this, Gessa explained, UWA had authorised two companies; Olsen East Africa International and Asia-Africa Pangolin Research Centre (U) Ltd to pilot a pangolin breeding project with the aim of revitalizing the animal’s population.

The pangolin is one of the 54 Buganda clan totems but is also highly marketable in South East Asia and China.

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