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Corruption fears spark UK freeze of e14m aid to Uganda

Britain has halted all aid channelled through the Ugandan government amid concerns that foreign support was being siphoned off into private bank accounts.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening announced that nearly €14m was being withheld after receiving initial findings from a forensic audit.

It comes after Ireland placed a freeze on aid payments to Uganda last month amid revelations that €4m was misappropriated by "corrupt officials".

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore has received assurances that the missing money will be fully repaid and is due to get an audit report into how the Irish Aid for the poorest region in the country ended up in a bank account operated by officials from the office of the Ugandan prime minister.

Two senior Ugandan officials are on remand facing prosecution, while 17 have been suspended without pay.

The UK had already suspended payments to the office of the country's prime minister, Patrick Amama Mbabazi, following claims that €12m donated by Ireland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden had gone astray.

The UK Department for International Development (DfID) said the restriction was being extended until the Ugandan government could prove it was not misusing funds.

"This is a result of initial evidence emerging from our ongoing forensic audit of the office of the prime minister, which indicates aid money may have been misused," a spokeswoman said.

"We are extremely concerned by these preliminary findings and we will assess the decision further when we have considered the full findings.

"Unless the government of Uganda can show that UK taxpayers' money is going towards helping the poorest people, this aid will remain frozen and we will expect repayment and administrative and criminal sanctions."

Most of Britain's €123.5m annual aid to Uganda is spent through charities, multilateral bodies and the private sector.

Just under ¤33.7m goes through the government, and €13.85 had been due to be handed over before the end of the financial year.

hnews@herald.ie


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