Aid robbed in Uganda: what can be done?
Recent Ugandan headlines of corruption are ubiquitous: leading donor agencies such as the British government’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Irish government are suspending aid to Uganda following highly publicised corruption scandals.
In August external auditors from the Office of the Auditor General revealed that approximately €12 million in aid from Scandinavian countries and Ireland were allegedly funnelled to the private bank accounts of officials from the Ugandan Prime Minister’s office. As the fraud investigation wore on, Ireland, Denmark and Norway suspended aid to Uganda. The Ugandan government has pledged to return the money.
In light of the scandal, DFID has indefinitely suspended the remaining £11.1 million (US$17.6 million) allocated this year to further Ugandan development.
The poor lose the most
The decision to pull funding is not surprising, but the impact on the poor can be devastating. As the Ugandan government re-evaluates its budget following the halt in aid, programmes and services tailored to benefit the public – especially the poor – will suffer cuts that undermine development.
–Peter Wandera, Executive Director of Transparency International Uganda
Uganda suffers from a strong culture of impunity. The Ugandan government may have committed to repaying Ireland the €4 million lost, but there is no political accountability. Drastic steps are therefore needed to ensure that corruption does not trump aid and development.
What can be done
Internal monitoring mechanisms are in place, as demonstrated by the Office of the Auditor General’s report on the fraud allegations. But enforcement of the law is weak. To prevent corruption in development and improve accountability, the following is recommended by Transparency International Uganda:
- Individuals in charge of respective departments and ministries should take full political and administrative responsibility.
- Ugandan anti-corruption legislation and its effectiveness need to be re-evaluated.
- Corruption investigations should be expedited by the police. The judiciary should address these matters with urgency before the case reaches the statute of limitations.
- The Office of the Prime Minister’s role in handling funds should be assessed. If some funds had been decentralised to other ministries, the amount allegedly swindled could have been far less.
- The donor community should put more stringent clauses in future funding agreements to deter graft. Including more direct funding to civil society for service delivery and monitoring should be explored.
- Individuals found guilty of corruption should be held to account.