Missing Uganda aid to be repaid soon


Suspension of Irish development aid to the Government of Uganda, amounting to €16 million this year, will remain in place until €4 million in missing funds is restored, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has said.

Speaking after the release of an Irish Government report on the scandal, he said the missing €4 million in Irish Aid funds to Uganda is expected to be paid back within weeks or months.

He told reporters that the Government had a “written undertaking” from Uganda’s minister for finance that the money would be repaid.

Speaking in Dublin Castle prior to an address on Ireland’s EU presidency to a conference held by the Institute of International and European Affairs, he said he had ordered a “full review” of his own department’s risk assessment procedures.

“It was a very well-organised, very sophisticated fraud that took place in the prime minister’s office in Uganda. It involved the defrauding of about €12 million; €4 million of which was Irish Aid money.

“The important thing here is that it was detected quickly. We acted quickly: we suspended all Irish aid to the Ugandan government. The money is now to be paid back and the people responsible have either been arrested, suspended, or action is being taken against them.

“Clearly there are lessons that have to be learned from this, obviously for the Ugandan government and, from our own point of view as well, in relation to our own risk assessment procedures. The systems control [in the department] could have been stronger.

“I have instructed my officials to carry out a full review of our risk assessment, to make sure we are less vulnerable to this type of fraud.”

Asked about repayment of the stolen funds, he said: “We have got a written undertaking from the minister for finance in Uganda that the money is being paid back.”

The funds were intended for the Peace, Recovery and Development Programme to assist the war-torn northern part of the country, and the fraud was discovered by the auditor-general of Uganda. A team from the evaluation and audit unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs went to Kampala to examine how the funds were diverted without authorisation by officials in the office of prime minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi.

Their report states: “This was a very sophisticated, well-thought-out fraud involving a high level of collusion at a senior level. The fraud was conceived and carried out by personnel in collusion who had an intimate knowledge of systems within ministry of finance, planning and economic development, [the] office of the prime minister and Bank of Uganda.”

The funds “were fraudulently transferred from the legitimate bank accounts into which the donors had properly deposited the money to fraudulent dormant accounts outside of the government system”.

The report adds: “It is impossible to know who the ultimate beneficiaries of the funds were.”

The full report is available online at iti.ms/UPfXmA