Kampala, Uganda | By Edward Ronald Sekyewa | The inside story of how two German investors paid millions of shillings in hopes of acquiring concessions to open game hunting facilities in UWA managed areas.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority has been rocked by a scandal in which officials in that body solicited and received bribes from different foreign investors in the tourism industry. The names of the President of Uganda and the Vice President have also come up in this scandal because it was the VP Prof. Gilbert Bukenya who introduced one of the investors, a German prince, to President Museveni. The President then directed the VP to work with the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Industry to find an area for the German prince to invest.
Prince Albrecht von Oettingen- Spielberg, was introduced to UWA, where he identified the Pian Upe game-hunting facility close to Kidepo National Park as the suitable one for him to invest. On the other hand, there was already another German investor, Christian Weth, who was based in Uganda and established in the tourism industry and wanted to have the concession to run the same Pian Upe facility. The prince ultimately won the concession. This is where the scandal stems from.
It is also reported that many of the UWA officials involved in these shady dealings have been put on forced leave pending further investigation.
Documents received by Kampala Dispatch show that an official in UWA, Mr. James Omoding, received bribes from the two German investors, after promising to convince the UWA Contracts Committee to award them the concession. It is clear from the documents seen by this Reporter that Omoding was double-playing these investors, with both of them thinking that they would have his favour when it comes to awarding the concession in question.
It is also clear from the documents that Omoding had previously helped Weth to acquire the concession to manage the Kafu game-hunting facility before and had received bribes from this investor several times before the Pian Upe issue arose.
In one of the communications, Omoding informs Weth that the documents for the Kafu facility are ready and are can be picked from the office. Omoding then asks for a “Thank you” from Weth. “Your madam can pick the letters from me any time tomorrow. How about the thank you? Can she also handle it in your absence? There are urgent issues I wanted to sort out as soon as possible,” was Omoding’s message to Weth, to which he replied: “She will come and get the papers. Is 1 million ok?”
To this Omoding replied that he had put in a lot of effort to see the deal through and wanted to have three million instead. The German protested. “I gave you two already. I could give you two now, plus another two when I get Pian Upe and Amudat. And also each of the other members in that [the contracts committee] will get one. I’m sure that this should be enough,” was Weth response, to which Omoding replied “Ok. No problem. We do it as you suggest.”
This communication between the two took place in July 2008. When asked to comment about this, Christian Weth denied any transaction with Omoding, saying that he only knew him as an official in UWA and nothing more. “I have never given money to Omoding, nor have I ever sent those mails to him.
Maybe someone hacked into my mail address and sent those mails but it was not me,” Weth told KD.
Concerning Omoding’s dealings with Prince Albrecht of Oettingen- Spielberg, this UWA official was in contact with the Secreatry to the Prince Ms. Sabine Greinwald, and he sent her his bank details with a current account number in Stanbic Bank limited, City branch. The account number is 0140009558901, swift code sbicugkx in the names of James Omoding.
On October 1, 2008, the Secretary to the Prince wrote to Omoding thanking him for sending his bank details in time, and she indicated in her correspondence that “Our bank has been advised this morning to transfer USD 500 immediately to your account.”
Then again on October 7th 2008, the secretary to the Prince wrote to Omoding. “Sorry for answering so late. On Friday, there was a holiday in Germany and Prince Oettingen was travelling. So I could not talk to him.
Meanwhile, Prince Oettingen has checked the matter and our bank was advised today to transfer US Dollar 2,500 to your account. In case of any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me immediately.”
KD has attempted to contact the Prince regarding the payments but have not received a response before going to print. On October 23, 2008, a meeting was held in the Vice President’s office between the VP and Nakapiripirit district local government on wildlife management in Pian Upe and Amudat community wildlife area.
Those who attended this meeting were the VP Prof. Bukenya, MP for Chekroi County Peter Lokeris, MP for Upe County Francis Kiyonga, LCV Chairman for Nakapiripirit John Nangiro, RDC Nakapiripirit Andrew Napaya, CAO Nakapiripirit Sunday Kyomya, Principal Secretary to the VP David Muduuli and the UWA Executive Director Moses Mapesa.
In this meeting, the VP explained how he met Prince Albrecht in Germany and invited him to invest in wildlife management in Uganda.
The Prince came, was introduced to President Museveni and committed himself to invest in Pian Upe. In the same meeting, it was resolved that the VP directs the Ministry of Works to open up the access and feeder roads in Nakapiripirit to ease transport in the area where the Prince was investing, and the VP also directed the Ministry of Water to sink an extra four boreholes in the same area.
All this happened at a time when city lawyer Andrew Kasirye was the Chairman of the board of directors at UWA.
However, the new Chairman Dr. Boysier Mubaale, who was appointed on April 14 this year, is convinced that both the concessions for Kafu and Pian Upe facilities were wrongly and illegally awarded since both processes were tainted by corruption, and has issued a directive to terminate the contracts. He also cites influence-peddling by the Vice President in the Pian Upe incident, since the Ministry of Tourism was left on the periphery regarding this issue.
This is not the first time UWA has been accussed of corruption and mishandling of public resources.
In 2005, the then head of the UWA, Dr. Arthur Mugisha, stepped down because sources say he was fed up with the inherent corruption in the agency.
Regarding James Omoding, Dr. Mubaale said that when he came in as the new chairman of the board, he asked Omoding to resign but he refused, insinuating that he is protected by “powers above”. Until the recent shake-up, Omoding managed to keep his job even though UWA has a policy of zero tolerance concerning corruption. “The organization emphasises accountability, ethics and professionalism in executing staff duties. UWA also established a zero tolerance for corruption and malpractices and stringent measures were undertaken to address commissions and or omissions as well as disciplining the staff involved,” it says on the UWA website.
The UWA Executive Director Moses Mapesa is also said to have got wind of Omoding’s misdeeds, but only gave him a warning letter.
“These people have not acted in the interest of the law and have taken their personal interests to supercede national interest,” Dr. Mubaale said in an interview, adding that when he tried to rectify the wrongs that had been done in UWA in the past, he instead met resistance from the Principal Private Secretary to the Vice President, Mr. David Muduuli. He said that the former UWA board has been asking for money from government, but his board is going to ensure that the government gets money from UWA because a lot of money is generated from that body but is mismanaged and stolen by the top officials.
“I want to clean up UWA by the end of this year so that this corruption and maladministration which is rampant there becomes a thing of the past,” Dr. Mubaale asserted.
When asked to comment about his involvement in the UWA saga and the award of the Pian Upe concession to Prince Albrecht, the PPS to the VP David Muduuli said that Pian Upe was given to the Prince by President
Museveni, and UWA came in just to formalise the deal. He added that when the VP introduced the Prince to the President, Museveni was impressed by the ideas the Prince had, and thus was given Pian Upe.
“This Prince is a very rich man who has invested massively in Uganda in the tourism sector,” Muduuli said adding that his role was just to correspond with the relevant authorities, in this case UWA, to see to it that the Presidential directive is effected. About protecting UWA officials who have taken bribes, Muduuli said that he is not protecting anyone and if any official is proved to have engaged him or herself in corruption, the law should take its course.
“If there was corruption between UWA officers and investors, let it come out and the laws of Uganda are very clear on that,” Muduuli emphasized.
When contacted to comment on whether they also received bribes from Omoding to effect the awarding of concessions to the two investors in question, the Contracts Committee (CC) members of UWA completely distanced themselves from the scam. CC members Eunice Nyiramahoro, Olive Kyampaire and John Makombo told KD in a meeting attended by all three of them that they were not aware that money exchanged hands, and that if it happened, then that was on individual basis.
“We followed the right procedures in awarding the concessions, and if Omoding used the name of our committee to extort bribes, then that is unfortunate and the law should be applied,” Nyiramahoro told KD.
They explained that there was no way Omoding could influence their decisions because he is not a member of that committee, he only prepares bids which are forwarded to them.
The CC members further said that their work is to review proposed procurements, and to ensure that the correct procedures are followed.
“The Omoding scam was an individual issue and not an institutional one because in the course of our work, we do not communicate with the outside world until we have made a decision,” John Mukombo said adding that the Office of the Vice President did not in any way exert pressure on the committee. When contacted, Omoding said the money from Weth was a loan which he is paying back, although Weth denied any dealings with Omoding. Concerning the money from Prince Albrecht, he said that those were consultancy fees.