No Uganda officials ‘held to account’ for €4m Irish Aid theft

Lack of political will hampering anti-corruption efforts, according to report

None of the senior Ugandan government officials implicated in the theft of €4 million of Irish Aid money last year has been held to account for their actions, a new report about graft in the east African country claims.

Released today, the investigation, Letting the Big Fish Swim: Failure to Prosecute High-Level Corruption in Uganda, details how a lack of political will has crippled the country's anti-corruption institutions, and undermined their efforts through political interference, harassment and threats.

The reports authors’, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Yale Law School’s Lowenstein Clinic, found that the theft of the Irish Aid money was just the latest in a long line of development aid corruption scandals, and not a single high-level government official has gone to jail over the years.

Other scandals to have rocked the country include the diversion of $45 million from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria in 2010, and the stealing of $12 million from the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations in 2006.


Although in early January this year the Ugandan government returned the Irish Aid money, which was diverted without authorisation by personnel in the Office of the Prime Minister, the Irish Government has suspended its bilateral aid to Uganda. The Irish Aid money was part of a larger sum of more than €9 million of donor aid that was stolen and then returned after an audit uncovered the attempted graft.

Despite renewed pledges to fight corruption earlier this year by Uganda's long-standing president Yoweri Museveni, the government has arrested at least 28 anti-corruption activists who were distributing information to the public.

Approximately 30 per cent of Uganda’s national budget came from donor support last year. While donors have suspended aid at various times in response to corruption, funding has nearly always resumed despite the lack of significant reform or high-level prosecutions, maintained HRW.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that while some donor countries had resumed partial budgetary support to Uganda, Ireland and the UK were still not delivering aid through this system. "Instead we are using other approaches to deliver a high-impact programme on governance, HIV/Aids, social protection, education and economic development.

“At the same time, we remain engaged with various key ministries to ensure that our programmes fit within national policy priorities and are well monitored and sustained,” a spokesperson said.

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South Africa