Tourism association on the spot for “duping” members to sign to petition against Minister Butime,  UTB CEO

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The Uganda Tourism Association (UTA) has been put on the spot for allegedly fraudulently using members’ signatures in a petition to parliament against the Minister for Tourism, Col Tom Butime and the Uganda Tourism Board CEO, Lilly Ajarova.

Others petitioned against are Richard Kawere, the Principal of the Hotel and Tourism Training Institute in Jinja.

The petition

In the petition delivered to parliament on October, 6, 2023 by Richard Wanda, the Bungokho central county MP,  seven UTA members including Association of Uganda Tour Operators(AUTO), Uganda Safari Guides Association(USAGA), Uganda Hotel Owners Association(UHOA), Women in Tourism(WIT), Uganda Community Tourism Association(UCOTA), National Association on Culture and Creative Arts Uganda(NACCAU),  Hotel and General Managers Association of Uganda(HOGMAU) accuse the minister, UTB CEO and the principal of HTTI of not being up to the task and mismanaging the tourism sector.

The petitioners told parliament that Minister Butime has mismanaged the tourism sector by appointing Kawere as the HTTI principal without any recommendation of the board of the institute and at a time when the board was not fully constituted after the resignation of the board chairperson.

“In contravention of section 13(2) of the Hotel and Tourism Training Act , Richard Kawere a former lecturer of a course unit in hospitality at MUBS does not have the requisite knowledge and experience in hotel management or vocational training which undermines his suitability for appointment to the position of principal,” the petitioners say.

They also argue that Kawere has in the past been queried and it is matter before the IGG for the misappropriation of the COVID recovery funds to the tourism private sector.

The UTA members accuse the minister for tourism of failure to supervise Uganda Wildlife Authority which has led to increase in poaching by communities neighbouring Queen Elizabeth National Park.

“Uganda Wildlife Authority receives 90% of its revenue from private sector operators yet the minister has failed to consult the private sector or include a representative of the private sector on the board of UWA.”

The petitioners accuse the UTB CEO, Lilly Ajarova of failure to guide the body she heads to formulate in cooperation and consultation with the private sector and relevant entities , a marketing strategy for tourism in Uganda and promote Uganda as an attractive and sustainable tourism destination.

The UTA members also accuse the minister for tourism of failure to provide leadership and supervision to UTB in marketing Uganda’s tourism potential abroad , “ preferring to utilise funds earmarked for such undertakings to develop feasibility which play no role in marketing Uganda’s tourism potential abroad.”

“The minister has failed to provide leadership to Uganda Tourism Board in setting targets and accessing and evaluating  the benefits acquired by Uganda from the public relations firms contracted to market Uganda abroad inspite of government annually spending $1 million  on marketing Uganda abroad.”

The petitioners asked parliament to look into these matters but also direct the Auditor General to carry out a forensic audit into the Jinja based Hotel and Tourism Training Institute and Uganda Tourism Board.

The petitioners

The petitioners include Brian Tuhaise on behalf of Uganda Safari Guides Association(USAGA), Herbert Byaruhanga for Uganda Tourism Association where he is the president, Tindyebwa Dona ,Sophie Mbabazi, Agnes Mirembe, Amutuhaire Christopher, Alpha Okello, Agio Aminah, Matilda Iremera, Patrick Muhereza, Susan Hakiza, Felex Musinguzi, all for the Association of Uganda Tour Operators(AUTO) whereas Johnie Kamugisha signed on behalf of USAGA.

 The trouble

However, in a twist of events, four of the petitioners have through their lawyers petitioned the Speaker of Parliament distancing themselves from the petition.

Felex Musinguzi of M/S Kazinga Tours Ltd,  Sophie Mbabazi of M/S Enjoy Safaris Africa Ltd, Alpha Okello of M/S GECKO Safaris Ltd and Agio Aminah of M/S Baboon Adventure Safaris Ltd all members of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO), a member of the UTA  say their signatures were fraudulently used on the petition.

“Our clients categorically disassociate themselves from this fraudulent petition since they were made to sign for a Petition to the minister about completely different matters but their signatures were falsely attached to a completely different petition,” the lawyers say in their counter petition to the Speaker of Parliament.

They say that whereas the UTA petition to parliament mentions seven associations, only three signed genuinely and that  Uganda Hotel Owners Association (UHOA), Women in Tourism (WIT), Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA), The Uganda Association of Tourism Agents (TUGATA), National Association on Culture and Creative Arts Uganda (NACCAU), Hotel General Managers Association of Uganda (HOGMAU), Uganda Association of Conference and Incentive Industry (UACII), Buganda Heritage and Tourism Board (BHTB) all never signed. “This means that there was no quorum as only three out of eight allegedly signed and those of AUTO were forged.”

The signatures that some UTA members say were to be for a petition to the minister but were attached to a petition against the minister they are not party to.

Three of these have since written to the Uganda Registration Services Bureau(URSB) to make statutory declarations disassociating themselves from the petition.

In her statutory declaration, Sophie Mbabazi tells URSB that she learnt about the petition to parliament against the minister and UTB CEO through their Whats App group.

She explains that on October, 2, she was called by Dona Tindyebwa to meet him at a hotel in Munyonyo and there she found other colleagues where they discussed the issue of gorilla permits and how it was being handled by UWA and agreed to petition the minister for tourism about the matter

“We agreed to petition the Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities about gorilla permits. Immediately after the discussion, Dona Tindyebwa gave me a pre-signing page to sign which already had other names of AUTO members who had signed on it.I was told that the said document was to accompany the petition to the minister on the issue we had just discussed which they were to reduce into writing and attach the duly signed page of the signatories and I therefore signed,”Mbabazi says.

“ I never petitioned Parliament because it was not part of the discussion and I would never have petitioned against the aforementioned government officials who are doing their respective mandates which I know nothing about.”

Agio Aminah says following a press conference at Onomo Hotel in Kampala on October , 4, about gorilla permits addressed by the UTA president Herbert Byaruhanga and Civy Tumusiime, the AUTO Secretary General, it was agreed to petition the tourism minister and to this, a pre-prepared signing page with other names was given to her to sign.

She says she was astonished to see a petition to parliament against the tourism minister with her name on it.

“I am extremely unhappy that my name was wrongly used to petition against the minister, Principal Hotel and Tourism Institute and Executive Director, UTB by those who presented the petition. I have also scrutinized the petition and noted that Civy Tumusiime who we had discussion with never signed the petition,” Agio says.

UTA president Herbert Byaruhanga.

She says she has never met Richard Wanda, the Bungokho central county MP who presented the petition to parliament and to this, she says she has never asked him to present the petition on her behalf.

“As members of UTA, we are sure that the UTA membership has never been invited to sit, resolve and agree to make such a petition to parliament,” Agio tells URSB.

The Nile Post has separately learnt that UTA president, Herbert Byaruhanga is behind the move and some of the members have accused him of  having "petty fights" against both UTB and the tourism ministry after recently leading a boycott of the launch of the "Explore Uganda" at Kololo.

Contacted for a comment, UTA president, Herbert Byaruhanga who is also a signatory to the petition said none of the said members was duped in signing the petition.

“The signatures were not got fraudulently. They signatures are theirs, they are of stable mind and that one( counter petition in regards unofficial use of signatures) doesn’t change the fact that there are issues in the petition affecting the sector,” Byaruhanga told this website on phone.

“If they are denying, it is okay because we know them and are our colleagues but that doesn’t take away facts in the petition. The concerns in the petition are right. The petition is valid.”

Byaruhanga said the UTA members who have distanced themselves from the petition could have been intimidated.

“Many more other people have actually signed. They could be more than 50. Those who wanted to get out of the petition are okay and it is their own discretion. Those ones are just misinformed or intimidated to say no.”

Asked to comment on the claims that the members were asked to sign on a petition to the minister in regards the gorilla permits scandal against UWA and not to parliament against the minister, the UTA president insisted that no one was duped.

“A managing director of a company that works internationally with a fleet of vehicles, how can you just append a signature on something you haven’t read? At least try to internalize and understand. It is a weakness on their side to claim that they didn’t understand that there were petitioning against the minister. Some leaders don’t understand their role. Advocacy involves that..”

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