4 February 2013

Uganda: Ireland to Re-Channel Aid, Not Take It Away

The Irish government has decided to re-channel the $4m stolen from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) to northern Uganda.

The money, which has since been refunded by the Uganda Government, has so far landed several senior ranking officials in court, while others have been quizzed by the Police.

The deputy secretary to the treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, said Sunday that the Irish government had decided not to take away the money but utilise it in the north through different channels.

He said the money would not go through the budget support as had been the case before the fraud was uncovered.

"Instead of the Uganda Government being the one to implement the programmes, they (Irish) will implement the programmes using their own mechanisms," Muhakanizi said.

He declined to comment on new reports of Scandinavian donors joining Ireland to demand a refund of the money.

Muhakanizi said, however, that the Government and the donors had already agreed that the money would be paid back "in accordance with the joint budget support agreements with them as verified with the Auditor General."

"That is not new. We already agreed and we are paying. I will be surprised if any of them said they were mad because we have not paid back," Muhakanizi said, naming Denmark, Sweden and Norway as those to be paid back.

An investigation by the Auditor General discovered that $13.4 (about sh35b in aid had been diverted from the northern Uganda reconstruction programme and misappropriated by officials in the OPM.

The principal accountant in the OPM, Geoffrey Kazinda, has since been charged in court over theft of the funds. Other officials from the OPM and the finance ministry are facing similar charges. The trial of Kazinda in one of the cases involving the said money has started.

The other case, where he is jointly charged with others, is slated to start in April.

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Britain froze their aid to the country after the scandal was revealed.

Norway is only asking for a partial refund, since its aid was paid into a special account that made it easier to identify fraudulent transactions.

"We have asked to be repaid 23m kroner ($4.2m) and we have been promised that we will be," said Astrid Versto, a spokeswoman for the Norwegian minister of international development.

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