Fraud suspected as €4m of Irish aid to Uganda goes missing25/10/2012 - 16:51:09
Some €4m of Irish Aid funding to Uganda has gone missing in a suspected fraud, the Government has disclosed.
Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has suspended all financial assistance channelled through the office of Prime Minister Yoweri Museveni after the money was transferred to unauthorised accounts.
Auditors from the Department of Foreign Affairs flew to the capital Kampala this morning to investigate the alleged misappropriation of funds, which was earmarked for education, policing and tackling HIV and Aids in the poorest regions.
Mr Gilmore said he is deeply concerned over the alleged fraud, which was identified by Uganda’s own auditor general and reported to Irish officials yesterday.
“I regard it as intolerable that any development assistance should be misappropriated or diverted,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Gilmore.
“The Government will not provide financial support under our development cooperation programme unless it is clear that Irish money is being spent for the purpose for which is was allocated.
“I have also asked the Irish ambassador in Kampala [Anne Webster] to convey to the Ugandan government how serious we take this issue and make absolutely clear that while we are very proud of our aid programme, while we see it as very important, we will not tolerate any disapprobation or any misuse of Irish taxpayers’ money,” he added.
The alleged fraud involves €12m in aid last year from four countries - Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark – for the peace recovery and development programme for northern Uganda. It was established to rebuild the region after decades of conflict and devastation.
A team of officials, led by the evaluation and audit unit of the Department of Foreign Affairs, will try to establish exactly where the money is and if it can be recovered.
Mr Gilmore said the Government, through Irish Aid, was due to pledge €17m to the east African state but will withhold the €16m still due pending the probe.
The payment of another €15m of taxpayers money to NGOs in the country, such as Goal, Trocaire, World Vision Ireland and Self Help Africa, will continue.
The Tánaiste said Ireland has a strong programme in the region, which suffered dreadfully from internal conflict and ravages of Joseph Kony and his co-called Lord’s Resistance Army.
“It’s money that’s provided to provide schools, to address the huge problem that country has with HIV and Aids, to work in supporting police and Government institutions in Uganda to rebuild them after the history we have seen in Uganda,” he said.
“These are very important programmes and I don’t take the decision likely to stop all payments.”
He also hit back at critics who have raised concerns over financial aid going directly to African governments, adding that Irish Aid also supports programmes like the independent auditor general who uncovered the alleged fraud.
“I take some comfort in the fact this was identified by the auditor general in Uganda, but having being identified I felt I had to take immediate action,” he added.
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