1 November 2012

Uganda: Denmark Cuts Aid to Uganda Over OPM Fraud

Denmark has joined a growing list of donor countries that have slashed aid to Uganda. The decision comes on the heels of a graft scandal where donor aid worth billions of shillings, meant for the rehabilitation of war-ravaged northern Uganda and Karamoja sub-region, was stolen by officials at the office of the Prime Minister.

"Pending receipt of a written reaction and satisfactory action by the government of Uganda, direct Danish disbursements to the government of Uganda have been suspended," reads a news release from the Royal Danish embassy in Kampala.

The Danish minister for Development Cooperation, Christian Friis Bach, believes the decision to suspend aid to Uganda will underline his country's zero tolerance policy towards corruption, the statement says, adding that the minister has demanded that all efforts are made to get to the bottom of this case.

However, Denmark will continue giving donor aid to promote good governance and human rights, and to combat corruption, to bodies such as the Uganda Human Rights Commission, the Inspectorate of Government (IG) and the courts.

On Tuesday, Britain joined Ireland in suspending direct aid to Uganda. The Irish government has sanctioned a wider probe into all the aid the country's taxpayers give to Uganda.

A special audit carried out by the Auditor General unearthed substantial evidence chronicling how aid from Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark, among other donors, was transferred to unauthorized accounts, resulting into the theft of billions of shillings.

In a statement, the Danish ambassador to Uganda, Dan E. Frederiksen, says: "I have made Denmark's position very clear and we have received firm commitments from the government of Uganda to take action on all the issues we have raised. We now need to see written confirmation of the commitments made at these meetings with indications of concrete actions taken. We also need assurances that ongoing and additional investigations, not least in the office of the Prime Minister, are allowed to happen unhindered."

Frederiksen adds: "Denmark has been supporting Uganda since the time of independence and we have assisted Uganda to establish the institutions necessary to promote good governance and tackle cases of impropriety and corruption. In the current situation, we also look to these institutions to take appropriate action in the follow up to the good work of the Auditor General."

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has been contrite over the state of affairs in his office and assured donors, whom he met on Monday, that everyone involved in the scandal will be punished.

Over 17 officials from the OPM, the Treasury and Bank of Uganda have been interdicted, as sleuths continue to investigate the scandal. The principal accountant, Geoffrey Kazinda, has already been detained.

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