Suspension of aid to Uganda will remain in place
Suspension of Ireland’s bilateral aid to Uganda will remain in place until Irish officials are confident controls have been put in place to prevent another misappropriation of funds, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has said.
Mr Gilmore announced yesterday that the Ugandan government had returned the €4 million of Irish Aid funds which had been diverted without authorisation by personnel in the office of prime minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi.
He said the restitution followed “intensive high-level discussions with the government of Uganda over the last two months”.
A team from the evaluation and audit unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs concluded that the fraud was “very sophisticated [and] well-thought-out” and involved a high level of collusion at 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,” their findings noted.
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” they said, adding that it was “impossible to know who the ultimate beneficiaries of the funds were”.
Mr Gilmore said the €4 million would be put back into the health, education and Aids projects originally earmarked for the money but that it would not go through the government.
“We have suspended payment through the Ugandan government and that will remain suspended until we are satisfied that all of the necessary controls are put in place,” he said. Mr Gilmore has also demanded that the Ugandan government act against the officials who were implicated in the fraud. He added that the Ugandan government must manage aid in a way that is “absolutely transparent” so that there was “no misuse of taxpayers’ money”.
Ireland’s bilateral aid to Uganda was due to amount to €16 million last year.
Uganda’s auditor general, whose office uncovered the fraud, is due to publish a report on the case. The misappropriated funds were intended for a “peace, recovery and development” programme in war-ravaged northern Uganda. “Looking to the future, we stand ready to continue to work with the auditor general of Uganda in his efforts to root out corruption, strengthen financial controls, and build robust and transparent systems of accountability,” Mr Gilmore said.
Fine Gael TD and chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs Pat Breen said those who are supposed to benefit from Irish Aid funds should “not suffer as a result of this corruption”.