Uganda to repay Irish Aid funds


The government of Uganda is to repay €4 million of Irish Aid funding which was transferred into unauthorised accounts.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore confirmed today he has had assurances from the highest level in the African country that the misappropriated money will be paid back in full.

The prime minister of Uganda, Patrick Amama Mbabazi, last week denied any knowledge of the fraud through his office and insisted none of the missing money was ever paid to him. Two of his senior officials are on remand facing prosecution, while 17 have been suspended without pay while investigations continue.

 “It is critical that the full force of the law be applied to those who engage in fraudulent activities and that systems are strengthened to fight corruption," Mr Gilmore said.

Last month, Mr Gilmore suspended a total of €16 million in Irish assistance due to be channelled through the Ugandan government and ordered an immediate investigation.

The alleged fraud is reported to involve €12 million in aid last year from Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. The funds had been earmarked for education, policing and tackling HIV and Aids in the poorest regions left suffering after years of conflict.

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.

Mr Gilmore today welcomed the swift response of the Ugandan government and its commitment to urgently review its internal control mechanisms.

"It is my sincere hope that these actions indicate a renewed determination on the part of Ugandan authorities to tackle corruption, which is an affront to Ugandan citizens and the citizens of countries, such as Ireland, who have supported the country through very difficult times," he said.

Three Irish Aid officials who travelled to the capital, Kampala, to investigate the missing cash are back in Dublin and will give a detailed report to Mr Gilmore in the coming weeks.

The Tánaiste said Ireland had given financial and technical support to the auditor general's office, which was instrumental in uncovering this fraud. "In the future, I will consider ways in which Ireland might further assist Uganda to enhance their capacities in this area," Mr Gilmore continued. "I have also asked my department to examine ways in which we could assist the Ugandan government to recover the misappropriated funds through processes similar to those employed by our own Criminal Assets Bureau."

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.

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