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Sunday 19 November 2017

Ugandan PM insists he didn't pocket €4m in Irish aid cash

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

UGANDA'S prime minister has said he did not pocket any of the €4m in Irish Aid funding that ended up in a bank account operated by officials from his office.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has suspended the €16m in aid due to go to the African country through its government.

A team of Irish Aid auditors is in Uganda, and Ireland's ambassador Anne Webster will meet Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi today.

Mr Mbabazi says he knew nothing about the misappropriation of €12m, including €4m from Ireland, and apologised for what had happened.

Arrested

"I didn't even know. No money was ever paid to me and I never handled money. As prime minister I never handle money of government. Never," he said on RTE's 'This Week'.

The Irish Aid auditors are working with Uganda's Auditor General, other international donors affected and the Irish embassy.

Ms Webster and senior diplomats from other embassies will meet Mr Mbabazi today in the capital, Kampala.

The Government insists no Irish Aid money goes through Mr Mbabazi's office, which only has responsibility for the policy of the aid programme affected, not funding.

The principal accountant in Mr Mbabazi's office has been arrested and is on remand.

President Yoweri Museveni has instructed the police to indict the dozen or so officials implicated in misappropriation.

Mr Mbabazi said he never had any reason to be suspicious of the activities of officials, despite reports that the fraud was orchestrated from the basement of his office building.

"My involvement is limited to policy. The management of public funds according to our constitution is in the hands of our public officials," he said.

"The accounting officer reports to the treasury and the Auditor General reports to parliament, so most times when we hear queries we hear them from the Auditor General."

Mr Mbabazi said he was not notified that Irish Aid funding was being suspended.

The first he heard was through media queries in Uganda and contact from a friend in Ireland.

European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton said the Government was not going to cut off all contact with Uganda on foot of the incident.

"It is, in fact, ironically, a sign of strong government in Uganda that this can be uncovered," she said.

Irish Independent

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