New Vision (Kampala)

4 November 2012

Uganda: OPM- Denmark Freezes Aid, Bigirimana Remains Defiant

Parliament has unanimously passed a motion to interdict PIUS BIRIGIMANA, the permanent secretary in the office of the prime Minister. ( Resource: Uganda Parliament Passes Motion on Permanent Secretary

EMBATTLED Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Pius Bigirimana, is still in the office despite a vote by Members of Parliament on Thursday to force Government to suspend him and tough conditions by the donor community before the aid taps could be reopened.

In a phone interview on Friday with Sunday Vision Bigirimana said he had not been interdicted, contrary to reports, and was still the Permanent Secretary.

"I am still in office and I am working normally," he said. He also maintained his innocence and said he was being victimised.

On Thursday, Parliament presided over by the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, overwhelmingly voted to have Bigirimana kicked-out over the scam that has since seen the country suffer aid cuts.

Funds for the Government Marshal Plan to reconstruct Northern Uganda was being channelled through the Peace Recovery and Development Programme (PRDP), a programme under the OPM, that funded by donors.

Denmark, Britain and Ireland announced they were freezing their financial assistance to the Government.

Donors also set tough conditions before they could resume aid, with Denmark insisting that the Government had to make a written confirmation of the commitment to crack down on corrupt officials 'with indications of concrete actions taken'.

"We have immediately suspended all direct payments of assistance through the Government of Uganda. We have zero tolerance to fraud. There have been tough meetings with the Prime Minister and finance minister. We have demanded money refunded and all those responsible brought to justice, and the introduction of more and better control systems which ensure that the type of fraud will not occur again. The Government has promised this will happen," read a statement by Christian Friis Bach, Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark.

Revelations of massive theft of money aimed at helping the poor were brought to light following a request by Bigirimana to the Police chief to investigate the principal accountant, Geoffrey Kazinda, who had absconded from duty.

He, however, tried to control attempts by CID to interrogate him and the other staff. A special report by the Auditor General discovered massive irregularities that implicate the PS and his staff.

A source at State House told Sunday Vision that the President was going to pronounce himself over the matter this week.

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