10 January 2013

Uganda: What Uganda Can Learn From Ireland


Uganda has reimbursed to the Irish government a sum of $5m (Shs 17bn) that was embezzled by officials in the Office of the Prime Minister.

The money had been part of a fund meant for recovery efforts in post-war northern Uganda. Several budget support donors cut off aid last year, protesting the embezzlement of the money, estimated at $13m. Some of them demanded immediate reimbursement.

Although ministry of Finance officials claim that Ireland has confirmed it will not take away the money but rather use it for the same projects it had donated it for, questions have to be raised regarding where this sum came from. Moreover, the officials are adding that other donor countries interested in reimbursement are to be paid too! What about repercussions for the wider economy given that the treasury has already lost a big chunk of aid support in aid cuts?

One can't help but wonder why the government needs to borrow if it has this kind of money lurking around, ready to be handed to an unhappy donor so quickly!

Just like the Irish government was concerned about their taxpayers and thus put Kampala to task to recover the stolen money, so should the Uganda government show more respect to her taxpayers in the way it handles their money, including this sum that has just been expended. If the Irish government can get us to 'vomit' their money, why can't we get those who stole this money to 'vomit' it too?

Indeed if there is anything we can learn from the Irish, it is their determination to recover money that has been stolen from their taxpayers as shown in this case. To avoid future thefts and thus more reimbursements, the Uganda government either needs to stop borrowing or stop its officials from stealing borrowed money.

That's why those who are pushing for the recovery of this money from those who stole it, once convicted, have a point. The thieves must not be left to enjoy their loot while innocent Ugandans pay the bill.

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