On November 8, a commission of inquiry into the mismanagement of a sh95b World Bank loan meant to improve wildlife conservation in Uganda released its long awaited report. Taddeo Bwambale brings out how the money was misused
The Commission of Inquiry, led by retired Supreme Court Judge Justice George Kanyeihamba, pins several government officials, former directors of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), its affiliate institutions and other technocrats for embezzlement and misuse of the funds.Tourism minister, Prof. Ephraim Kamuntu and Ambassador Julius Onen, the permanent secretary in the trade and industry ministry, are also among those mentioned in the 93-page report.
PAMSU Project In 1996, the World Bank and the Government designed the Protected Areas Management for Sustainable Use (PAMSU) project to improve the state of national parks and other protected areas in the country.The project was initially meant to run between 2002 and 2007, at a cost of $37m (sh95b), but was extended to 2010. The World Bank agreed to contribute 90% of the funds while the Government would meet the remaining 10%.
About 500.000 million shilling was set a side to improve Bwindi National ParkThe money was to be used to set up boundary markers in 14 wildlife reserves, carry out surveys of boundaries in national parks and supply seedlings to five wildlife reserves. Other activities included construction of a sh3.5b UWA hdquarters; procurement of staff uniforms and vehicles; construction of boreholes and consultancy services.The Government will start repaying the loan in October 2012, at an interest of1% between 2012 and 2022, and then 2% from 2020 to 2042.
The report faults the tourism ministry for failing to supervise the project. The ministry neither visited PAMSU projects nor received reports about them, contrary to the Wildlife Act and regulations.Yet, in 2009, when UWA requested for sh107b additional funding from the World Bank to complete ‘unfinished work’, the request was approved by the tourism ministry, whose officials had never visited the project sites.According to the agreement, a project co-ordination unit was to be established at the trade ministry to guide the implementation of PAMSU. Instead, an independent unit was set up and reported only to the World Bank, the commission says.The salaries of the officials were determined by the World Bank, but paid by the Government. David Abura, a project supervisor was reportedly paid up to sh10m monthly, although his role in the PAMSU project was said to be unclear.When Saturday Vision contacted him, he asked for more time to study the report, but insisted there was value for money in the project.“In my opinion, there was no misuse of the funds, otherwise, it would have been captured in audits,” he said on phone.
The unit comprised four officers, but had five drivers, who were on standby most of the time. The PAMSU project coordinator, Juliet Byaruhanga, reportedly confessed to the commission that she never visited any of the projects over the seven-year period.
The commission also heard that the bulk of the sh8.2b was spent on food, training, travel and food for the unit employees.
Findings of the UWA CommissionAfter meeting 66 witnesses over the six-month inquiry that started in April, the commission discovered the following:Most of the money was stolen, diverted or misused by the accounting officers, managers, operators, consultants and supervisors.The UWA headquarters, constructed by Arab Contractors Ltd, was substandard, the quality of materials used was poor and cracks had emerged, especially on the second floor. UWA management ignored warnings from the project manager, Roger Allen, about the defects, during the construction.Construction of staff houses was done in only four protected areas, instead of 10 national parks and 12 wildlife reserves. The houses, which were costed at $13m (sh34b), were of low standard.Of the nine boreholes earmarked for construction in Kidepo National Park, only one was built. There was no value for money in the tree planting programme along the Mt. Rwenzori and Mt. Elgon National Parks, for which sh447m was disbursed.In nearly all the procurements, the World Bank regulations and PPDA Act were not followed. 15 solar panels were procured at a cost of sh225m, but only three were delivered UWA procured staff uniforms at sh821m from Southern Range Nyanza Ltd over an eight-year period, but were of poor quality and ill-fitting.