Fraud at ‘very high level’ in Uganda is behind missing €4m aid

Fraud at a “very high level” in the Ugandan government resulted in €4m in emergency Irish aid disappearing, the Oireachtas was told.

Speaking to the Dáil foreign affairs committee, Irish Aid director Brendan Rogers said he did not believe the scandal involved the country’s prime minister.

Ireland suspended aid to the war-torn East African nation after a probe by Uganda’s auditor general found that €12m in aid from Dublin, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark was misappropriated within the prime minister’s office.

The fraud also targeted €5m of Uganda’s own money and the country’s government has pledged to return the Irish aid.

Mr Rogers expressed surprise that the perpetrators believed they could get away with the crime.

“The thing about this fraud was that it was at a very high level — so it was passwords and forged signatures between government departments — so it was very hard to detect, but once it was detected all the tracks were there, all the signatures were there. They’ve got the 17 names — they know who did this, so I can’t understand how they thought they were going to get away with this.

“They also stole government of Uganda money — about €5m — so they are stealing their own government’s money.”

Pressed on whether the country’s prime minister could be involved, Mr Rogers said there was no evidence to suggest that.

“The prime minister’s office has a number of ministers, it has grown incredibly over the past number of years ... It is a vast office which has grown far too quickly — which is one of the reasons the auditor general wanted to have a look at it.”

The Ugandan fraud has been deeply embarrassing for the Department of Foreign Affairs and has led to a number of investigations.

TDs praised the work of Irish Aid in the country, particularly regarding the fight against HIV/Aids.

Committee members also urged the Government to put pressure on Uganda to abandon g homophobic laws set to go before the country’s parliament.

Meanwhile, Uganda will pass an anti-homosexuality bill by the end of the year, despite international criticism.

The country already criminalises homosexu-ality, but in 2009 a politician with the ruling party said a stronger law was needed. The new legislation proposed the death penalty, but has since substituted life imprisonment.

Barack Obama described the bill as “odious”.

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