The Government of Uganda is to repay €4m of Irish aid funding which was transferred into unauthorised accounts.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore confirmed he has had assurances from the highest level in the African country that the money, which was misappropriated by corrupt officials, 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 Government officials are on remand facing prosecution, while 17 have been suspended without pay while investigations continue.
Mr Gilmore said: “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.”
All financial assistance channelled through the office of the Prime Minister was suspended when the fraud was uncovered less then two weeks ago by Uganda’s auditor general.
Minister Gilmore 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.”
The funding was among €12m paid out last year from four aid countries and moved to unauthorised accounts.
It had been earmarked for education, policing and tackling HIV and Aids in the poorest regions left suffering after years of conflict.
The Irish Government, through Irish Aid, was due to pledge €17m of taxpayer’s money this year but is withholding €16m still due.
However, NGOs working in the country will receive €15m due.