8 December 2012

Uganda: Corruption Is Unacceptable

Corruption in Uganda is not primarily an issue between the Government and the donors. It is above all an issue for Ugandans themselves. It is your national debate that really matters.

In recent weeks, in both the UK and Uganda, media reporting about UK aid to Uganda has been focussed on corruption allegations in the Office of the Prime Minister. The public response to this situation in both countries has understandably been one of anger and disappointment.

Misappropriation of public money allocated for the development of a country and its people is unacceptable and is unjustifiable to the public in the UK and in Uganda. Citizens in both countries have a right to assurances that precious resources spent by their Governments are used for the intended purpose - in this case improving the lives of the poorest people in Uganda.

That is why the UK along with other donors in Uganda has had no choice but to suspend all direct financial aid channelled to the Government of Uganda.

Any money that hasn't been used for the purpose for which it was intended must be returned. Until this happens, and action is taken against the people involved in this corruption, and donors have sufficient assurances that all of our aid will go towards helping poor people lift themselves out of poverty, financial aid channelled through Government will remain frozen.

This doesn't mean, however, that the UK's commitment to supporting poverty reduction in Uganda has reduced. Far from it. Three quarters of the £98 million (Ushs 392 billion) of UK aid to Uganda in this financial year is not channelled through Government systems and is unaffected by this suspension.

The UK is funding programmes through the United Nations Agencies, non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other agencies. These programmes are supporting progress in key areas of Uganda's National Development Plan including in infrastructure, trade, financial services, maternal health, family planning, and support for victims of gender based violence.

New UK funded programmes are currently under development to help Uganda adapt to a changing climate, fight malaria and expand regional economic integration across East Africa.

I have been visiting Uganda now for 15 years. It is a pleasure to return here this week as the United Kingdom Department for International Development's Permanent Secretary in a year when both Uganda and I turned 50 years of age.

A useful feature of anniversaries and milestones such as 50th birthdays is that they encourage us to stand back and look at things against a longer perspective than the here and now around which much of modern life revolves.

As I commented in a speech at a seminar hosted by the Economic Policy Research Centre this week, the grandparents of today's 50 year olds could scarcely have conceived where we would be today. In the last 50 years, global life expectancy has risen from 47 years on average to 67 years. 3G Smartphones on sale here for $100 in Kampala today enable a Ugandan to access more information than was in any library in the world 20 years ago.

The progress made in Uganda in the last 50 years is testament to the resilience of its people. It is currently a country free from conflict and with an impressive record on economic growth.

The UK is proud to be a partner to Uganda in its development. In the last 10 years alone, the UK has provided more than four trillion Ugandan shillings in development assistance to support Uganda in its efforts to reduce poverty, increase access to services and infrastructure, and promote growth and prosperity.

I remain very optimistic about the future trajectory of development in Uganda for three reasons - your natural resources, your growing democracy, but most importantly Uganda's people. And the UK remains committed to continuing its support to help Uganda and its people achieve their potential.


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