Friday 22 September 2017

Uganda told to repay €4m in aid funds after fraud

Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who says he didn't pocket any of the aid, apologised on behalf of his government.
Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who says he didn't pocket any of the aid, apologised on behalf of his government.

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

UGANDA is considering paying back the €4m of Irish aid funds that ended up in a bank account operated by officials from the prime minister's office.

The Government here told the Ugandan prime minister it wants the misappropriated funds to be repaid.

Irish Ambassador Anne Webster and her counterparts from the other countries affected by the €12m fraud met the Ugandan government yesterday.

Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who says he didn't pocket any of the aid, apologised on behalf of his government.

He said he was determined to apply full sanctions, including prosecution, against those implicated in the fraud. Mr Mbabazi said the country's criminal investigation division was very involved from outset.

In addition to two senior officials being charged, one of whom is the principal accountant, 17 have been suspended without pay while the investigation continues.

Investigation

Mr Mbabazi said his government was actively examining the issue of restitution of funds and would be coming back to the donors in the near future.

In a frank meeting, Irish ambassador Anne Webster made it clear the Government expects the funds to be repaid.

The Dail's taxpayer watchdog is set to launch a special investigation into the spending of the country's third world aid budget following revelations of a €4m fraud in Uganda.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has suspended the €16m in aid due to go to the African country through its government after the €4m ended up in an account run by officials from Mr Mbabazi's office.

Ms Webster and other ambassadors met the prime minister in the capital Kampala.

But a member of the Dail's Public Accounts Committee wants a special meeting to deal with how Irish overseas aid is being spent.

Fine Gael TD Simon Harris wants to know what checks and balances are in place to ensure taxpayers' money sent overseas is being utilised as intended.

"Ireland and Irish taxpayers have continued to support overseas aid projects despite the economic difficulties in our own country.

"It is absolutely essential that these funds are spent correctly, arrive in the destination they are intended to and that the State has the appropriate checks and balances in place to ensure that this happens," he said.

Irish Independent

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