The Uganda government has returned 4 million Euros of Irish Aid funds which had been diverted without authorisation by personnel in the Office of the Prime Minister, The Irish Times online has reported. Ireland has, however, announced that the suspension of its bilateral aid to Uganda will remain in place until officials are confident controls have been put in place to prevent another misappropriation of funds.
The Uganda government has returned 4 million Euros of Irish Aid funds which had been diverted without authorisation by personnel in the Office of the Prime Minister, The Irish Times online has reported.
This is approximately 14.2 billion Uganda shillings, part of the Peace Recovery and Development Plan (PRDP) funds diverted by staff in the OPM.
Ireland has, however, announced that the suspension of its bilateral aid to Uganda will remain in place until officials are confident controls have been put in place to prevent another misappropriation of funds.
The Irish Times quotes the country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore as saying that the restitution followed “intensive high-level discussions with the government of Uganda over the last two months”. The money is said to have been refunded on Monday.
A team from the evaluation and audit unit of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs concluded that the fraud was “very sophisticated and well-thought-out” and involved a high level of collusion at senior level.
According to the audit findings, the fraud was conceived and carried out by personnel in collusion who had an intimate knowledge of systems within the Ministry of Finance, the Office of the Prime Minister and Bank of Uganda.
The findings further indicate that the funds “were fraudulently transferred from the legitimate bank accounts into which the donors had properly deposited the money to fraudulent dormant accounts outside of the government system.” The audit adds that it was “impossible to know who the ultimate beneficiaries of the funds were”.
Minister Gilmore said the 4 million Euros would be put back into the health, education and Aids projects originally earmarked for the money but that it would not go through the government.
Gilmore has also demanded that the Ugandan government act against the officials who were implicated in the fraud. He added that the Ugandan government must manage aid in a way that is “absolutely transparent” so that there was “no misuse of taxpayers’ money”.
Geoffrey Kazinda, the principal suspect in the fraud is on remand in Luzira Prison on charges of fraud and abuse of office. He was due to start trial on Monday but failed to turn up due to ill-health.
Ireland’s bilateral aid to Uganda was due to amount to 16 million Euros last year.
Uganda’s Auditor General, whose office uncovered the fraud, is due to publish a report on the case. The Auditor General in October last year released a report of a special audit indicating that up to 50 billion Uganda shillings was misappropriated by staff in the Prime Minister’s office. The misappropriated funds were intended for post-war recovery in Northern Uganda under the Peace, Recovery and Development” Plan (PRDP).
Ireland together with other donor countries reacted by suspending its aid to Uganda. Other countries that suspended aid included Norway, Denmark and United Kingdom among others.
Ireland now says they are ready to continue working with the auditor general of Uganda in his efforts to root out corruption, strengthen financial controls, and build robust and transparent systems of accountability.