Aid to the Ugandan prime minister’s office was frozen in August, following allegations of fraud, while an independent forensic audit was ordered. Greening has now suspended other bilateral aid, which is spent through Uganda‘s financial systems, known as direct financial aid.
In the 1990s the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, was considered an aid darling among donors for his swift response to the Aids crisis and his efforts to stabilise the country after decades of political turmoil and repression under Milton Obote and Idi Amin. But his reputation has dimmed in recent years because of his heavy-handed tactics in dealing with political opposition and following accusations that he has been arming troops in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He changed Uganda‘s constitution to allow him to run for office after more than two terms. In 2005, the UK diverted £15m of aid meant for the Ugandan government to be channelled through the UN over alleged rights abuse, and withheld an additional £5m until fair, multiparty elections were held.
Total direct financial aid to Uganda planned for this financial year was £26.9m. The UK has frozen the remaining £11.1m due to be paid before the end of March. This includes general budget support and other projects. The forensic audit has raised questions about a small proportion of this. The Department for International Development (DfID) said there has been no confirmed loss to UK taxpayers at this stage as the investigation continues.
“Britain has frozen all UK aid spent through the Ugandan government. 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,” said DfID. “We are extremely concerned by these preliminary findings and we will assess the decision further when we have considered the full findings of the report. Unless the government of Uganda can show that UK taxpayers’ money is going towards helping the poorest people lift themselves out of poverty, this aid will remain frozen and we will expect repayment and administrative and criminal sanctions.”
Total planned bilateral aid from Britain to Uganda this financial year is £98.9m. Bilateral aid to the east African country is delivered through channels including the Ugandan government, the private sector, multilateral bodies and NGOs.
In August, DfID froze money to the Ugandan prime minister’s office amid reports that funds from several European countries had been funnelled into the private bank accounts of officials in prime minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi’s office. No British money was taken.
According to the Daily Mail, questions were raised when the Irish government was told by Ugandan auditors that its joint funding of €12m (£10m) with Norway, Denmark and Sweden had ended up in accounts belonging to the prime minister’s aides instead of going to pay for a peace recovery and development programme in northern Uganda.
The UK’s coalition government has come under strong pressure from Tory backbenchers to reduce foreign aid at a time of deep budget cuts at home. David Cameron, the prime minister, has pledged that Britain will meet the UN target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on development assistance.
By UK guardian