Address donor concerns over the refugee cash scandal

KAMPALA: The governments of Japan, the UK and Germany discontinued direct funding to the refugee programme under the Government of Uganda for failure to address conditions set out last year after an investigation unearthed rot involving refugee funds at the Office of the Prime Minister.

The joint investigation conducted by the United Nations, the European Anti-Fraud Office and the Government of Uganda discovered that the number of refugees in Uganda had been inflated by over 300,000 people and resources intended to provide for refugees had been stolen.

It also revealed that funds had been lost through corruption, improper behaviour around the awarding of major contracts, and overpayment for goods and services. This irked the donor community who demanded that immediate action be taken by all parties. UNHCR acted on the set of recommendations and has had funding reinstated, but the Government of Uganda has not done much.

It is shocking that 18 months after the UN led investigation into the matter Uganda is still conducting investigations. Those named in the report are known, the charges brought before them are well documented and the would-be beneficiaries, whom they d eprived, are also known.

Uganda has been a safe spot for refugees in the Greatlakes region and with over 1.4 million refugees, is the largest refugee host country in Africa. In 2017, President Yoweri Museveni led a campaign, the Uganda Solidarity Summit on Refugees 2017 at the Commonwealth Resort Hotel, Munyonyo, from which $350m was raised in cash and pledges, against a planned $2b.

The lack of transparency has cost the refugees in Uganda over sh34.1b (8.3m euros) in funding from Germany and a sh69b (15m pounds) from the UK and this will set the stage for dire times ahead as Uganda is not able to shoulder the shortfall.

The exit of Germany, the latest country to terminate direct funding follows Uganda’s failure to address conditions set by Germany, some of which included; taking action against those implicated in the refugee scam.
The demands made by the Germans were that a response to the allegations be made by the implicated and more accountability and transparency be instituted by the authorities, conditions that have yet to be met, 18 months later.

We call upon the Government of Uganda to institute measures to ensure that the officials implicated in this scandal are brought to face justice and that measures are put in place to ensure that a repeat of the same does not happen.

The already scarce funds have led to a food rations cut for refugees in all the settlements, and any further cuts of aid are likely to exacerbate the suffering already experienced by the refugees.

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