KAMPALA – The Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) Board treasurer has resigned, citing misuse of funds and a ‘hostile’ work environment.
In a letter addressed to the AUTO Chairman dated May 18, 2020, Charlotte K. Kamugisha said that she has decided to opt out since all instruments prescribed for her use as treasurer have been progressively stripped from her.
“After patiently serving on AUTO board for close to 2 years as treasurer, I opt to resign. All instruments prescribed for my use as treasurer have been progressively stripped from me,” said Charlotte Kamugisha in her resignation letter to AUTO Board Chairman.
According to Ms. Kamugisha, structures on which she based to supervise the association finances were abused and disrespected.
“My financial advice and queries are treated with contempt. The structures on which I depend on for supervising the finances of auto are disrespected.
“My constant appeals to rectify the situation by formalizing the policies and procedures have been ignored,” she said.
“I am therefore not in position to defend the financial decisions and transactions of this board,” she added.
Ms. Kamugisha said she had stayed this long mostly because she hoped to complete the AUTO land transaction and the formalization of the financial, procurement and human resource policies and procedures as well as the constitutional review. She revealed that the processes are in motion, and cannot be stopped.
– The Issues raised –
One of the issues raised against the Chairman and some of the Board members was on spending money without a budget and disrespecting the role of the F&I committee to review budgets and make recommendations to the board.
According to Ms. Kamugisha the secretariat is supposed to initiate the budgeting process in line with the strategic plan. This is then followed by the F&I committee which vets the budget and then makes recommendations for adjustments. The treasurer then presents the adjusted budget to the board.
“Until this process is complete and a budget has been approved by the board, the board has no basis for spending money,” she said.
The other issue raised was about expending Association money without the knowledge of the treasurer.
“I have not been privy to a number of transactions and my queries about them remain unanswered,” she added.
She further said that the role of treasurer as principle signatory to accounts is standard practice. She argues that someone has to take accountability and supervise the funds.
This, she says was even made clear by the previous AUTO board through a resolution that was filed at the URSB.
“This important control measure has also been ignored. The provision of three signatories should the Treasurer be unavailable is not necessarily a bad idea provided that the treasurer, as custodian of the accounts is kept in the know,” she argued.
Other issues raised against some of the top association board trustees include discrediting the prescribed financial decision-making process and making blanket and ambiguous board resolutions on matters of finance in the absence of a budget.
She cited the Murchison Marathon Payments on 10th April 2020 where says un budgeted for funds were spent without her knowledge.
“When I got our bank statements, I noticed two payments to Flex events totaling UGX 65,117,920 and paid in March 2020. The payments were for organizing a marathon event that never took place. Flex Events was procured by a marathon committee headed by the Vice Chair,” she said.
“They marketed a proposal to the board. No budget was presented except a projected cost of about 100 million,” she added.
She revealed that some other members on the board were very uncomfortable with that figure given the fact that AUTO had already spent money on a press release at Murchison Falls and a failed demonstration.
Ms. Kamugisha however, says that she doesn’t leave in regret as her objectives for serving on the AUTO board have been accomplished.
“I am hopeful that my resignation will be an eye opener to the incoming board. I hope the experience will be used in the reform processes to which I was committed. My recommendation is that the current board defers the completion of reforms (constitutional, policies and procedures) to the next board,” she said.
She argues that the current board has no moral authority to complete this process as they had no good will to complete and test run it, yet they had the opportunity.
Efforts to contact the Association chairman were futile, as his known mobile number was not going through at the time Africa Tembelea tried contacting him.
– About AUTO –
The Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO) is Uganda’s leading tourism trade association, representing the interests of the country’s leading and experienced professional tour operators.
Members offer a range of services, which can be broadly divided into the following categories Special interest safaris Air safaris Incentive travel group safaris Custom safaris for individual travellers Camping safaris (luxury & budget)