Red faced Irish government officials are investigating the disappearance of over $5 million worth of aid in the African state of Uganda.
Up to $15 million worth of aid in total from the international community has been misappropriated in a scandal believed to involve members of the Prime Minister’s department, the country’s central bank and its treasury.
The Irish Times reports that as many as 14 officials in government and banking circles in Uganda may be involved in the scam.
Reliable sources have told the paper that arrests are possible with suspicions of collusion between several high ranking government officials including some in the office of Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi.
Uganda’s auditor general presented a report in the missing funds on October 19th which was passed on to the Irish government.
The report says that Irish Aid, the development division of the Department of Foreign Affairs, works closely with the auditor general.
Sources told the paper that the missing Irish money, along with millions from Scandinavia, was initially lodged into a donor account and transferred to a ‘consolidated’ account for the country’s Northern Province to which treasury officials alone were supposed to have access.
The report states that the funds were then ‘allegedly siphoned off to a private account by a person or persons in the prime minister’s office’.
A joint statement by the development co-operation ministers of Denmark, Norway and Sweden said: “We want full clarity with regard to the scale of the irregularities. If the information is correct, there must be legal consequences. We will hold in-depth discussions with the authorities in Uganda.”
Representatives of the international community are to meet with the Ugandan government on Monday.
The money was intended to aid stability and reconstruction in war-torn northern Uganda by financing clinics, schools, roads, water supplies and judicial institutions.
Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore has already suspended over $22 million in aid due for the Uganda government.
Irish officials are already on their way to Uganda to investigate.
Fianna Fáil foreign affairs spokesman Brendan Smith said: “It is particularly worrying that the alleged misuse of Irish taxpayers’ money was not discovered by Irish officials, but had come to light only due to an investigation by authorities in Uganda.
“We need a strong system to ensure value for money and effectiveness in our Official Development Assistance budget. Currently, there is no external oversight of the funding allocated by Irish Aid.”
Sinn Féin foreign affairs spokesman Seán Crowe said: “I am happy to see that it was Uganda’s own auditor general who noticed the missing funds and alerted Irish Aid officials.
“This shows that Irish Aid’s work in assisting government officials abroad in reducing corruption is working.”