Government cold on aid to Uganda after theft report

Ireland has warned the Ugandan government it will not return to providing aid funding through official government systems until it has acted against those implicated in the theft of €4m worth of Irish aid.

Government cold on aid to Uganda after theft report

The warning came after the publication of an independent report into the theft of the €4m in the African country last year, which found that no action had been taken against any of the senior Ugandan government officials implicated in the fraud.

The report, by Human Rights Watch and Yale Law School’s Lowenstein Clinic, found that the theft of the Irish Aid money was just one of a number of cases in Uganda where money went missing, amid accusations of corruption.

The theft of the money was first spotted by Ugandan officials and in October last year, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore suspended more than €16m of aid assistance which was due to be channelled to Uganda following the discovery of fraud in the office of the prime minister.

The money was later refunded in full, but yesterday the Department of Foreign Affairs said the publication of the new report, and the lack of action within Uganda against those who may have been involved, was of concern.

A department spokesman said: “Ireland has pressed the government of Uganda for concerted action following the fraud. To date, the Ugandan DPP has opened 99 case files and Irish Aid will be following these cases very closely.

“In addition, the Office of the Auditor General of Uganda has been conducting follow-on inquiries and audits, with the support of Irish Aid.

“The Government will not return to funding through government systems in Uganda until we are fully confident that the Government has strengthened its internal financial controls and acted against all officials who were implicated in this fraud.”

The new 63-page report, entitled Letting The Big Fish Swim, involved interviews with 48 people with substantive knowledge of anti-corruption efforts in Uganda.

It found that “a lack of political will has crippled Uganda’s anti-corruption institutions, undermining their efforts through political interference, harassment, and threats”.

Human Rights Watch said: “No high-ranking government official, minister, or political appointee has ever served a prison sentence despite investigations into numerous corruption scandals over many years and an impressive array of anti-corruption institutions.”

Instead, the Ugandan government has arrested at least 28 anti-corruption activists who were distributing information to the public.

* Read the full report on exa.mn/uganda

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