Uganda aid stopped as €4m goes missing

Fri, Oct 26, 2012, 01:00

THREE OFFICIALS from the Department of Foreign Affairs flew to Kampala yesterday after Ireland’s aid programme to Uganda was suspended following allegations about the misappropriation of funds.

It is alleged that up to €4 million in aid from Ireland was transferred to an unauthorised account of the office of prime minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has suspended a total of €16 million in Irish assistance due to be channelled through the government of Uganda and announced an immediate investigation into the alleged misappropriation of funds.

Chairman of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade Pat Breen has expressed “deep concern” at the allegations, adding that misappropriation of aid funding “cannot be tolerated”.

The alleged fraud is reported to involve €12 million in aid last year from four countries: Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

The aid budget from Ireland for Uganda this year was due to be €32 million, including €17 million which would have gone through government channels.

However, a spokeswoman for Irish Aid, the development wing of the Department of Foreign Affair and Trade, said it was “earmarked for particular programmes”.

“Only €1 million has been disbursed to date and that didn’t go through the office of the prime minister,” she added. The remaining €16 million has been put on hold but the payment of another €15 million to NGOs in the country will continue.

Ireland has had an aid programme in Uganda since 1994 and funding last year amounted to €32.75 million. The overall Government aid programme to all developing countries is €639 million this year, compared with €920 million in 2008.

Auditor general of Uganda John SF Muwanga has been carrying out a special investigation into the handling of aid funds by the prime minister’s office.

A statement from Iveagh House said his draft report, which had just been made available to donors in Kampala, found there had been significant financial mismanagement in relation to the development programme for war-torn northern Uganda.

“The programme was established to rebuild the region after decades of conflict and devastation. It has been supported by Ireland and a number of other donors, including Norway, Sweden and Denmark.

“The auditor general has found that funding received from Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark last year was transferred to unauthorised accounts.

“His draft report states that up to €4 million in Irish Aid funding provided in 2011 was transferred to an unauthorised account of the office of the prime minister.”