Ntoroko residents demand access to UWA funds

Ntoroko residents demand access to UWA funds
Ntoroko residents

Residents and local leaders from three sub counties in Ntoroko are demanding that the district releases Shillings 250 Million that was disbursed by Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA). The three sub counties including Karugutu, Itoojo and Rwebisengo neighbor Toro Semuliki Game Reserve.

According to the Wildlife Act 2000, UWA is expected to remit 20 per cent of the revenue collected from the protected areas to the neighboring local governments. The local government is expected to distribute the money to residents to set up income generating projects to deter them from encroaching on the protected area.

The local communities help in fighting poaching, fire outbreaks and other illegal activities in the park. Last year, UWA handed a cheque of Shillings 250 million to Jimmy Asasira, the Ntoroko Deputy Chief Administrative.

But to-date, the communities have not received the funds. Benjamin Muhindo, the Itoojo sub-county LC V councilor, which neighbors Toro Semuliki accuses district officials of failing to handover the funds to the sub-county leadership.

Muhindo explains that residents in the area are entitled to their share since animals often escape from the park and destroy their crops. He says the decision by the district to withhold the funds is a sign of lack of transparency.

Alex Suza, the Karugutu Sub County LC V Councilor, says their plans to construct two class rooms at Kakara Primary school, barriers and opening of Karugutu – Itoojo community road have stalled. He says that sub county leadership has tried to seek answers from the district in vain.

In Ntandi sub-county, David Ajuna, a resident of Hamara village, says they have failed to construct water sources due to lack of the funds. He claims that the funds could have been diverted by the district authorities.

Nelson Guma, the Chief Warden Kibaale Conservation Area, says they have received the complaints and are investigating them. He says the leaders should lead by example and release the funds in order to improve the livelihoods of the community.

Jimmy Asasira, the Ntoroko deputy Chief Administrative Officer, says the sub counties ought to present to the district plans on how the funds will be spent before the money is released. He explains that the district doesn’t want a repeat of the last two years, when the sub county authorities diverted the funds.