Uganda's aid donors take flight in wake of embezzlement probe
12/12/2012, 11:05 a.m.
Dec. 11 (GIN) - Aid packages of hundreds of millions of dollars promised to Uganda are being called back after credible reports that up to $13 million in aid money was embezzled through the office of the prime minister.
The packages - totaling some $300 million - were promised by the UK, Denmark, Germany, Ireland and Sweden. They included money to develop areas devastated by the war on Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army. The scandal was uncovered by the Ugandan auditor general. A report documented numerous cases of forgery to justify fictitious expenses, and an accountant has since been taken to court over the scam.
Ugandan Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi has apologized for the disappearance of the aid money. Seventeen officials, including from Mbabazi's office, were suspended without pay.
Suspension of budget support from foreign donors could take a serious toll on the Ugandan economy - one of the fastest-growing in sub-Saharan Africa in recent years. Uganda relies on external financing for about a quarter of its public expenditures.
In contrast, Uganda's three largest donors - the U.S., the African Development Bank and the World Bank - have decided not to cut their aid packages. The U.S. has some $461million in the pipeline for Uganda although the revival of an anti-homosexuality bill in the Ugandan parliament may put a freeze on some portion of that.
Late last year, in a historic directive, Obama instructed U.S. aid agencies to consider host countries' treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in making funding decisions.