NOVEMBER 8, 2010: UK Slashes Sh27 Billion Aid Over Chogm Graft Case

UK Slashes Sh27 Billion Aid Over Chogm Graft Case

SOURCE: The Monitor

By Yasiin Mugerwa

The British government has cut over £7.5 million (about Shs27.3 billion) in direct aid to Uganda, citing slow progress in punishing ministers and other public officials accused of misappropriating Chogm funds.

The UK government, through its Department for International Development (DfID), said in an email to Daily Monitor on Thursday that it had withheld the money "owing to government's failure to address "high-level corruption" connected to expenditures on the 2007 Commonwealth summit.

Donors concerned

"The UK government is very concerned about corruption and the impact on our development partnership with Uganda as well as the impact on ordinary Ugandans," said Ms Lillian Akot, the head of communications at DfID. "Our support is absolutely reliant on the government of Uganda's commitment to ensuring that money is used for its intended purpose and delivers results for poor people regardless of whether it is donor money or not."

The move is likely to put a strain on the economy and affect service delivery in critical areas like education, health, agriculture, water and sanitation. About 34 per cent of Uganda's entire budget comes from donor funding.

President Museveni, citing threats by donors to cut aid, in March directed Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi to take action against all thieving government employees and private service providers named to have fiddled with Shs500 billion in Chogm resources.

One convict

Nine months later, only the former Ministry of Works Chief Engineer John Bagonza has been convicted. He was given a three-year jail sentence in June for abuse of office and causing a Shs1.6 billion loss during construction of roads for the summit.

While sentencing Bagonza, Justice John Bosco Katutsi said, "This court is tired of trying tilapias when crocodiles are left swimming," a direct reference to government's perceived failure to prosecute top politicians associated with the mess.

Parliament is currently debating a report on the abuse of Chogm funds, which names eight senior ministers, including Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, in the mess. The ministers, all who plead innocence, will this week make their defences in Parliament. The UK decision to cut aid came a day after Prof. Nsibambi told Parliament that the accused ministers would not step aside as demanded by some MPs.

More cuts

Donors have warned that more serious cuts will be effected if the government fails to implement the PAC report. They have also asked the government to among other things "put in place formal systems for tracking grand corruption cases and discipline all the responsible officers and recovery of lost funds identified in Chogm audit findings by December 2010".

"We and other development partners are following the Chogm case closely and look to the government to ensure that there is commitment and appropriate action to follow-up the findings in the reports of the Auditor General and the Public Accounts Committee. It is important that this happens quickly," Ms Akot said.

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