Uganda: Probe - Kutesa UN Staffer Took Bribes, Abused Office

19 October 2020

A staffer on Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa's team when he served as President of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly engaged in wide-ranging racketeering from diversion of funds to misuse of office assets, a UN internal investigation has revealed.

The unnamed staff member, according to an August 10 report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, "had been involved in a range of activities that included diversion of funds, misuse of assets and self-dealing in the discharge of duties.

"The staff member had used their position to advance their personal interests and those of third parties, received undeclared gifts, solicited funds that were diverted to unofficial accounts and engaged in unathorised outside activities," the report seen by this newspaper notes.

The Office of Internal Oversight Services is an independent office charged with internal oversight in respect to the resources and staff of the UN.

"An investigation revealed that a staff member had solicited a donation of $15,000 from a permanent mission and other donations and then diverted the amounts into bank accounts that the individual controlled.

"It was also found that the staff member had not initially reported the donations, later underreported the amounts, instructed a colleague to produce false documents and submitted false invoices to justify expenditure," the report added.

Ambassador Patrick Mugoya, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Daily Monitor yesterday he was "not aware" of the matter and was yet to receive official notification about it.

The probe report submitted to the just concluded UN General Assembly details that the Office of Internal Oversight Services submitted its findings to the UN Office of Human Resources "for appropriate action to be taken", and to the UN Office of the Legal Affairs for possible referral to national authorities.

Once Uganda is formally notified of the findings, it will be required to launch a formal investigation into the matter.

The report does not accuse Mr Kutesa of any wrong-doing. However, the revelations will bring renewed scrutiny into Uganda's year in charge of the global body.

Mr Kutesa was voted in June 2014 as President of the 69th session of the UN General Assembly and his term of office ended in September 2015.

2018 case

In December 2018 the United States Department of Justice indicted former Hong Kong home affairs secretary Patrick Ho Chi-Ping of corrupt practices, including some conducted during Uganda's presidency of the assembly.

According to the indictment Mr Ho, through his Hong Kong-based China Energy Fund Committee (CEFC), offered a Shs7b ($2m) bribe to Chadian President Idris Deby "to obtain valuable" oil deals.

He was also accused of offering a Shs1.8b ($500,000) payment to Mr Kutesa to help the company secure business favours in Kampala, including the potential acquisition of Crane Bank.

The DoJ indictment revealed that Mr Ho also channeled presents to President Museveni through Mr Kutesa.

Mr Kutesa has not been charged with any offence in connection with the case and has repeatedly denied any wrong-doing, stating that the money received from Mr Ho was a donation to a charity.

Mr Ho was in March 2019 convicted by a US federal court in New York on seven counts of multinational bribery and money laundering at the United Nations.

He was released from Jail in March this year after serving his sentence and returned to Hong Kong.

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