By Gerald Tenywa
THE head of the Uganda WildÂ¬life Authority, Moses Mapesa, and another boss are forced on leave over corruption. Two other bosses resigned.Joseph Tibeijuka, the director for finance, is now the acting executive director.
The board chairman, Dr. Boysier Oumar Muballe, said the suspension would help the authority investigate the matter without interference.
He cited the award of concesÂ¬sions and the creation of illegal departments for the action.
â€œThe board has taken a deciÂ¬sion to send Moses Mapesa on forced leave with effect from toÂ¬day (August 9),â€ said Muballe. â€œWe have instituted an audit over a number of suspicions.â€
Muballe added: â€œThis is a criminal investigation in which concessions have been offered. The President said he would deploy cadres to fight impunity and corruption. There was no ambiguity in this statement.â€
Mapesa is a long-serving wildlife manager, who belongs to many continental and global conservation bodies.
Mapesa headed the authority for the last five years, but has 22 years in wildlife service.
The authority was formed in 1996 following a merger of the Uganda National Parks and the Game Department.
Muballeâ€™s board, which started two months ago, also suspended Sam Mwandha, the director of conservation, last week over the same matter.
James Omoding, a conservaÂ¬tion coordinator, and Apophia Natukunda, the head of corÂ¬porate services, resigned last month, citing personal reasons. However, Muballe said the duo left after the board intervened.
Asked whether Mapesa was given an opportunity to defend himself, Muballe said: â€œThese people have perfected the art of giving explanations, but now the audit will help us to put evÂ¬erything together. We will take more steps after the audit reÂ¬port is out.â€
Muballe cited a case in which an official was offered a bribe to influence the contracts comÂ¬mittee to give hunting concesÂ¬sions to a foreign investor.
â€œThis was a case of fraud, which should be have been punished with outright disÂ¬missal. But Mapesa just cauÂ¬tioned the officer,â€ he said.
â€œIt is difficult to imagine the impunity of this official beÂ¬cause he was soliciting for bribes from sport hunters usÂ¬ing UWAâ€™s e-mail address.â€
Muballe did not specify how long Mapesa and Mwandha would be on leave. â€œMapesa and Mwandha should keep away from office during the foÂ¬rensic audit,â€ he stressed.
In a separate interview, LilÂ¬lian Nsubuga, the spokesperÂ¬son, said: â€œWe are working normally, decisions are being made. There is no problem.â€
The authority, which was set up by the Wildlife Act of 1996, manages 10 national parks, 12 wildlife reserves and 14 sancÂ¬tuaries sitting on land covering 10% of Uganda. It was hit with cases of corruption and interÂ¬mittent sackings of executive directors in its infancy.
Until now, the agency had been largely stable this deÂ¬cade. Ugandaâ€™s wildlife population was decimated in the 1970s and 1980s during the years of political instability and civil unrest.