By Alex Gahima
A total of 3,389,066,504 Ugandan Shillings has been disbursed to the districts of Kisoro, Kanungu and Rubanda under the Statutory Revenue Sharing program.
The three districts are surrounded by Bwindi Impenetrable National Park famously known for its exceptional biodiversity.
Uniquely positioned is Kisoro district, with not only one but two National Parks.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is smallest National Park widely known for the mountain Gorillas and the endangered Golden monkeys.
The monies account for the financial period of 2019-2020 and 2020-2021.
The Government of Uganda, through Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is required to pay 20% of the park entry fees collected from Wildlife protected areas to the local Governments.
Since its inception in 2003, total of 36 billion shillings has been paid out to communities with Wildlife protected areas in Uganda.
The Bwindi- Mgahinga area comprising of Kisoro, Rubanda and Kanungu districts accounts for 25% of Uganda’s total revenue sharing with 11 billion shillings.
Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities Hon. Tom Butime says the program was started by Government in recognition to communities supporting Wildlife Conservation.
According to Butime, district Local Governments with National Parks need to be substantially supported if they are to meet their financial obligations.
Effects of Covid-19 on Tourism Sector
Hon. Butime says revenue collection from the tourism Sector was negatively affected by Covid-19 pandemic when Government was forced to shut down the two national parks of Bwindi- Mgahinga between April 2020 and September 2020.
Uganda has continued to experience a 90% drop in revenue sharing funds sincen2019-2020 to date.
Hon. Butime says this is because tourists have not returned in large numbers despite the country fully re-opening its economy.
A 24% reduction in revenue sharing funds for the Bwindi- Mgahinga area was registered after a loss of 1,090,509,140 Ugandan Shillings from revenue collections of 4, 479,575,644 Ugandan Shillings in 2019.
Revenue Sharing per District:
Kanungu district- UGX 1,796,083,120
Rubanda district- UGX 802,415,611
Kisoro district- UGX 509,687,773 (Bwindi )
UGX 280,880,000 (Mgahinga)
Total UGX 3, 389,066,504
Hon. Butime reminded the Chief Administrative officers (CAO) of Kisoro, Rubanda and Kanungu districts that Revenue Sharing funds have now been made conditional grants.
He directed that all projects that will benefit from the funds must have been approved by the CAO adding that failure to show value for money will result in no more funds being availed in the next financial year.
Leaders Speak out
A down hearted Kisoro district LCV chairperson Abel Bizimana says he is thankful to UWA for having generated some funds to benefit communities in Kisoro.
According to Bizimana, he still does not understand how a district with two National Parks continues to get the least amount of money in revenue sharing.
“Am insisting that Government should gazette Echuya forest reserve in order to raise more funds for Kisoro and Rubanda districts through tourism”, Bizimana said
Rubanda LCV chairperson Stephen Kasyaba says Revenue sharing goes a long way in supporting Local Government Budgets that have since been cut from 23% to 9% by Central Government.
Kasyaba says the monies will be used to complete several projects that had been stalled due to lack of funds.
With a total of 1,796,083,120 Ugandan shillings, Eng. Kajojo says Bwindi boards up to 207Kms of land owned by communities that benefit from the program.
Kajojo says his council intends to utilize the funds to construct roads, hospitals and water sources instead of developing individual households so that more people can experience positive transformation.