The Criminal Investigations Department of Police is investigating allegations of child abuse, financial impropriety, negligence and other unethical behaviours against Restoration Gateway, a faith-based organization based in Kiryandongo District.
The not-for-profit organisation was founded by United States nationals Dr Timmons McCall and his wife Janice with a tagline to bring hope and healing among the vulnerable children and people in war-torn northern Uganda. Its objective was to establish a self-sufficient Ugandan-led community devoted to God, accomplished through the provision of an orphanage, hospital, dental centre, agricultural centre and other outreaches.
But Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga says that a general inquiry file has been opened based on a report filed by Simba Talents Group, a consultancy firm that was hired by the United States Board to probe allegations of abuse and misconduct against children and youth residents at Restoration Gateway.
The probe uncovered reports of child abuse, financial impropriety, inadequate leadership, subpar recruitment, negligence, and management practices among others and called for swift action to arrest the situation. The investigation report also reveals that there was substantial evidence supporting the allegations of physical and emotional abuse, mistreatment, and neglect.
“Numerous children reported instances of physical violence, including beatings and strangulation, often perpetrated by individuals in leadership positions,” the report further reads. There were also reports of children being detained without food or proper care, and children aged 11 and 13 were forced to participate in labour-intensive activities like maize harvesting, collecting firewood to cooking.
The consultant’s report pointed to an erosion of the mission where Restoration Gateway has cultivated an environment that greatly contradicts its guiding principles and mission and advised that the United States Board Undertakes a comprehensive assessment of the management procedures at the facilities, ensuring openness and responsibility.
“The culture established within the organization has become markedly inhospitable to these foundational values. Children instead of finding solace and protection, now fear those individuals who are intended to safeguard them. Consequently, all teachers and staff have resorted to hiding certain students from visitors due to apprehensions that they might divulge their unsettling experiences to sponsors and donors,” reads the report.
The 57-page report further shows that there have been instances where Restoration Gateway received generous donations of clothing and shoes for children. However, the leadership allegedly chose to sell the items instead of providing them to children in need. “An additional 300 pairs of shoes donated by US volunteers in March 2023 have not been distributed to the children, yet they are seen wearing worn-out shoes,” the report indicates.
It also reveals predatory behaviours towards vulnerable people where it is alleged that multiple instances of unfair practices were documented encompassing instances where abused children were compelled to offer apologies, as well as the demand for parents to supply tools like hoes and slashes to the school.
“In addition, there is at least one instance of children being detained without a proper investigation or evidence and without being supplied food. This is particularly distressing for orphan children who are often victims of abuse and therefore more susceptible to heightened trauma” adds the report.
The report also found that there is noncompliance with local laws and regulations adding that without compliance with local laws and regulations, Restoration Gateway cannot provide a safe space for children.”
Further, the report established that there were allegations of financial irregularities within the organization and discrepancies in the payroll structure with some staff members receiving salaries significantly higher than others without clear justification.
“The organization has significant outstanding financial liabilities including staff vendors and the Uganda Revenue Authority. Additionally, there was a reported loss of 7.5 million Shillings and another 200 million Shillings which was not adequately accounted for,” it reads.
According to the investigation, “despite Restoration Gateway’s sponsorship being one of the most expensive orphanage sponsorships in Uganda, costing USD 280 per month for each child, it falls short in comparison to similar programs such as Watoto, Cornerstone Development Africa and Restore Academy which offer better nourishment, accommodation, clothing at notably lower costs to sponsors.”
The Investigation report concludes that the findings paint a concerning picture of the practices and culture at Restoration Gateway, highlighting serious issues that need to be addressed urgently to ensure the safety and well-being of the children under the organization’s care, as well as the integrity of the organization’s operations.
Efforts to get comments from the Directors of Restoration Gateway Dr David Tim McCall and his wife Janice McCall over the allegations against them were futile as they couldn’t respond to our emails sent on October 17, 2023.