THE PRIME MINISTER of Uganda has insisted that he did not personally receive any of the Irish humanitarian funding that was misappropriated by his department – but said some of the money sent by Ireland had been used for its intended purpose.
Amama Mbabazi told RTÉ’s This Week programme it was “not the case that they stole” the entirety of the money that had been sent by Irish Aid, but that much of the funding received by his government had been used for the development projects as originally intended.
“It’s not the case that they stole the money,” Mbabazi said. “They used the money for the purpose it was intended, but it was irregularly managed. It was used for the purpose it was given,” he said.
A report from the country’s Auditor General published earlier this week found that up to €4 million in funding sent by Irish Aid had been misappropriated, prompting Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to suspend all aid payments to that country.
Local reports in Uganda have suggested that the fraud was carried out by staff based in the basement of the building that houses the offices of Prime Minister and the President.
Asked how this could have taken place without someone becoming aware of the inappropriate actions more quickly, Mbabazi said: “That’s something that we’re all interested in getting answers for”.
“The police, the criminal investigation department, is carrying out extensive investigations… more and more face people will face prosecution in our courts of law,” he said.
Stressing that he had not personally received or handled the money, Mbabazi said his involvement in the managing of public funds was entirely at a policy level.
“The management of public funds, according to our constitution, is in the hands of public officials,” he said. “As Prime Minister I never handle money of government. Never.”
Responding to suggestions that foreign aid money should be directly administered through NGOs and humanitarian groups rather than by local governments, the premier further added that “corruption is not only in public office”, but that he remained open to discussing possible options.
“The problem in Uganda about corruption – the greatest weakest we have – is the capacity to investigate. We tell our friends that the greatest help we need in the fight against corruption today is to build that capacity to investigate,” he said.
Mbabazi also defended the level of Uganda’s military spending, saying the country remained in an unstable region, and it was necessary “to build the capacity to protect the stability we have, the peace we have, in Uganda”.