In Summary
  • Failure. Despite the President publicly expressing his disappointment with both NFA and Nema, the two organisations have until now failed to style up.
  • Despite the President publicly expressing his disappointment with both NFA and Nema, the two organisations have until now failed to style up. To them it is business as usual and in most instances their top managers seem to blatantly connive with unscrupulous people to sell off our forests or fill our wetlands with illegal structures.

In the 1990s and early 2000, the government created statutory bodies to enhance efficiency and innovation in government. It was assumed that some sectors within government were too big to be efficiently managed under certain departments within ministries.

The decision was further informed by the success registered when Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) was formed to handle tax collection. So different ministries created statutory bodies to replicate the success of URA.

Whereas reasonable progress has been made in some agencies, however, some areas have registered complete reversal and some agencies have become havens of corruption.
For starters, bodied like the National Forestry Authority (NFA), National Environment Management Authority (Nema) are some of those statutory bodies whose performance is far below expectation.

NFA has been captured by corrupt mafias to near catastrophic outcomes. Going by the revelations of the ongoing land probe, the government should act immediately to save the few remaining forests before they are wiped out completely.

For Nema, the excuse is that they don’t get sufficient funding. This is very common by those too incompetent to put into proper use the available resources.
The government is already mooting the idea of scrapping or merging some of the inefficient statutory bodies. This might take some time, necessitating urgent measures to save our forests and wetlands.

Recent reports put Uganda’s remaining forest cover at between nine and 15 per cent. Uganda’s Vision 2040 targets restoration of Uganda’s forest cover from 15 per cent to 24 per cent by 2040, while the second National Development Plan (NDPII) targets to increase forest cover from 15 per cent to 18 per cent by 2021. These, plus the National Forestry and Tree Planting Act (2003), can be good drivers.

But encroachment, capacity of enforcement agencies and corruption remain the biggest obstacles to achieving these goals.
There has been pressure from the increasing population, granted, but that is exactly why we must jealously guard existing forests and pursue reforestation programmes.
I think the government should immediately instruct the army to take over the management of our forests and wetlands.

If you are looking for a reason this should happen, look at the President’s decision to deploy UPDF to prevent overfishing of our lakes. A year later, fish stocks have increased and the fish industry is set to grow and blossom again. The foreign exchange earnings from fish that were dwindling will rise again.

Similar interventions by the UPDF in the management of Naads have resulted into visible results. Whereas the Naads secretariat remained handling issues of procurement, the real distribution chain and extension services is managed by UPDF, and this has so far yielded good results. There are still challenges largely related with skills, but the results have improved.
If UPDF is deployed to protect our forests and wetlands, expect them to act swiftly and do an efficient job at minimum cost.

Secondly, the UPDF has demonstrated ideologically clarity and exemplary conduct as opposed to the laissez-faire approach that tends to dominate the minds of the rest of public servants.
Despite the President publicly expressing his disappointment with both NFA and Nema, the two organisations have until now failed to style up. To them it is business as usual and in most instances their top managers seem to blatantly connive with unscrupulous people to sell off our forests or fill our wetlands with illegal structures.

Finally, NFA is mandated to manage 1.2 million hectares of forestland in Central Forest Reserves. But its record leaves a lot to be desired and is worrying.
Let our sons and daughters in uniform come in to sort out this mess. After all, most if not all opinion polls that have been undertaken show that Ugandans trust the UPDF more than any other institution in the country.

Mr Acemah returns next week

The writer works with the Uganda Media Centre
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