Four districts from the Rwenzori region that neighbour the Kibale Conservation Area have failed to account for sh167m that they received from the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) under the annual revenue sharing programme.
Under the revenue sharing program, protected areas under UWA are mandated under article 69(4) of the Wildlife Act to share 20% of their total annual earnings with communities adjacent to the protected area.
The money whose major intention is to demonstrate the economic value of the protected area to the adjacent community is channelled through the district accounts first before reaching the end user at parish level.
Wilson Kagoro the community conservation officer Kibale National Park however says that districts that include Kabarole, Kasese, Kyenjojo and Kamwenge have up to now failed to account for the funds they received for the last financial year.
“The 20% that we remit to districts is intended to benefit communities that are suffering because of the park. This money is supposed to help them establish economic activities that are friendly to the protected area so that the two can coexist peacefully” Kagoro said.
He disclosed that it is unfortunate that some districts have resorted to diverting the money to other sectors such as work and education.
“We strongly discourage districts from using this money in other ministries to implement projects that were planned and budgeted for by government” he said.
Addressing district leaders during the dissemination of the new revenue sharing guidelines at Toro Resort in Fort Portal today Wilfred Chemutai the acting conservation area manager Kibale Conservation Area said that districts that have failed to account will not receive more money.
“Under the new guidelines, areas that misuse the funds shall not benefit again until the previous funds are properly accounted for” Chemutai said.
Chemutai disclosed that because of non-accountability, Kibale Conservation Area is currently withholding sh124M which should have been shared among the four districts.
He said that the funds will be channelled into another activity if the districts fail to account by October this year.
He also revealed that under the new guidelines, UWA is mandated to select project management committees for the benefiting areas to help in project identification and supervision to ensure value for money.
“For some good years now we have been remitting this money to the districts but unfortunately when you go on ground there is little or nothing the community has to show” Chemutai said.
During the event, Moses Ikagobya the vice chairperson for Kabarole decried the ignorance of political leaders about the protected areas.
“Most of us political leaders do not know what takes place in protected areas because we have never been there” Ikagobya said before begging UWA to offer them free entry to the protected areas.
According to Ikagobya, districts have failed to effectively budget for the conservation of protected areas because they lack information about them.
“Many times we have heard and read about UWA and the protected areas but when it comes to walking the talk as implementers of government programmes the story is totally different” Ikagobya said.