News and Views

Amama, donors to meet over cash scam

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Donors will today meet Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi over the theft of billions of shillings in international aid for development.
Mr Pius Bigirimana, the permanent secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), who is adversely named in an audit report on the matter, is also expected to attend the meeting.

This closed-door meeting follows a damning report from the Auditor General highlighting how officials at OPM enriched themselves at the expense of poor people in northern Uganda and Karamoja.

The meeting is expected to take place at Mr Mbabazi’s office. The PM was not available for comment but he indicated on his twitter feed, Saturday, that officials adversely named in the audit report will be interdicted soon.

Mr Bigirimana declined to comment when contacted yesterday. Senior officials in the OPM, including Mr Bigirimana, are held culpable by the Auditor General’s report.

The AG report offers substantial details on how aid from Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark was transferred to unauthorised accounts in a sophisticated scam. Mr Godfrey Kazinda, the former principal accountant in OPM, has already been charged in connection with the alleged embezzlement.

The exact amount of money believed to have been stolen is not clear, but a special audit carried out by the Office of the Auditor General said it could be close to Shs50 billion over two financial years.

In today’s meeting, the donors are expected to ask Mr Mbabazi to explain whether he was aware of the scam in his office and what action he intends to take. The donors are expected to make it clear to government that unless the stolen funds are recovered from the culprits, there will be no more funding, sources told Daily Monitor.

The Prime Minister, who is also the Leader of Government Business in Parliament, is the political supervisor of all the donor/government projects, but has not spoken much on the apparent breakdown in accountability in government departments.

“We want full clarity with regard to the scale of the irregularities. If the information is correct, there must be legal consequences,” a joint statement issued by Swedish government on behalf of other donors reads in part.

The full version of donors’ statement on missing funds at OPM was published on the Swedish International Development Cooperation Ministry website on Friday. “The development cooperation ministers from Denmark, Norway and Sweden take a very serious view of the information about financial irregularities. However, it is positive that it was Uganda’s own national audit office that uncovered the irregularities.”

Confirming today’s meeting with Mr Mbabazi, Ms Anna Gunilla Carlsson, the Minister for International Development Cooperation assured taxpayers in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Ireland that the donors would hold in-depth discussions with the authorities in Uganda with a view of asking the government to recover the money from the culprits or risk losing aid support, currently about 25 per cent of the national budget.

While the donors in a statement on Friday had said the decision to cut or to suspend aid to Ugandan people would be made after their meeting with Mr Mbabazi, the Irish government already cut Euros 16 million of aid to Uganda over concerns that it was being mismanaged.
The money had been earmarked for education, policing and combating HIV/Aids in the country’s poorest regions.

On Friday, donors including the World Bank met Auditor General John Muwanga at his office in Kampala, where they sought details on how their money was stolen.

Mr Muwanga said the donors were “depressed” and “upset” over his findings. Other officials in the meeting were from UK’s Department for International Development, Irish Aid, Germany, Sweden and Norway.

The Auditor General last week forwarded his findings to Parliament for further investigation and action.



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