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Office of Ugandan PM alleged to have defrauded European donors - Ireland suspends bilateral aid

Funding received from Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark was transferred to unauthorised accounts of the Ugandan Office of the Prime Minister, it has been alleged.Ireland has suspended all aid channelled through the Ugandan Government, the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime-Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore said today. He also announced an immediate investigation into allegations of fraud.

The announcements were made in response to the release of draft report of an investigation carried out by the Auditor General of Uganda, John Muwanga, into the handling of aid funds by the Office of the Prime Minister.

According to the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Muwanga's draft report, which has just been made available to donors, finds that there has been significant financial mismanagement in relation to the Peace Recovery and Development Programme for Northern Uganda.

The Auditor General has found that funding received from Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark to support the rebuilding programme was transferred to unauthorised accounts of the Office of the Prime Minister – up to €4 million of the funds were Irish Aid funds provided last year.

Uganda has also been in the spotlight this month following UN allegations that since April, along with Rwanda, it has been backing rebels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In February, a bill calling for life in prison for homosexual offences was tabled before Uganda's parliament by MP David Bahati. Uganda's government has defended its right to debate the draft bill but said it did not have official backing. It currently appears to be stalled at committee level.

An earlier version of the legislation had called for the death penalty. Several countries, said that aid would be withheld if it had passed. Britain said it would slash aid to countries that persecute homosexuals.

Mr Gilmore said in a statement:

“I am deeply concerned by what I have learned today of the findings of the investigation by the Auditor General of Uganda into the management of aid funds by the Office of the Prime Minister of Uganda. At this stage, it seems clear that funding provided last year by Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark for the rebuilding of Northern Uganda, a region which has suffered dreadfully from internal conflict and the ravages of Joseph Kony and his so-called Lord’s Resistance Army, was transferred to unauthorised accounts in the Office of the Prime Minister. I have instructed that a team of officials, led by the Evaluation and Audit unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, travel immediately to Uganda to investigate the findings of the Auditor General, in close cooperation with other affected aid donors, and to report back to me next week.

“Ireland has been providing technical and financial assistance to the Office of the Auditor General to build the skills and capacity required for the conduct of complex investigations such as this. While the findings of the Auditor General in this case are deeply disturbing, the fact that the Auditor General is now in a position to make them is a demonstration of the increased capacity and determination of elements within the Ugandan administration to enforce accountability for the use of government and donor money. It is only by building accountable systems such as this that the blight of corruption can be eliminated.

“I have asked our Ambassador in Kampala to underline to the Ugandan authorities the seriousness with which the Government regard the findings of the Auditor General and our insistence that the funds are restored without delay. Ireland’s aid programme is strongly focused on the poorest people and communities in sub-Saharan Africa and we have robust systems in place for the oversight and monitoring of our aid funding. I regard it as intolerable that any development assistance should be misappropriated or diverted. The Government will not provide financial support under our development cooperation programme unless it is clear that Irish money is being spent for the purpose for which it was allocated. Pending the satisfactory resolution of this matter, I have instructed that no further aid funding should be provided through Ugandan government systems.”

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