Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 28 August 2014

Leader denies knowledge of 'fraud'

Eamon Gilmore suspended all financial assistance channelled through the office of prime minister

The Prime Minister of Uganda has denied any knowledge of the alleged fraud of four million euro of Irish Aid funding in his office.

Patrick Amama Mbabazi apologised and said he understands the anger of the Irish Government over the misappropriation of funds but insisted he did not receive any of it.

The prime minister has ordered a criminal investigation into 14 officials said to be implicated in the scandal, including the principal accountant who has been arrested. He said he expects there will be prosecutions over the transfer of aid money to the unauthorised accounts.

Mr Mbabazi told RTE radio: "It is true some of the payments were made to private accounts of some officials of the ministry in the office of the prime minister. But let me say this: I didn't know. No money was ever paid to me and I never handled money. As prime minister, I don't handle money of government at all, ever.

"Even money that was paid to private accounts, some was fraudulently paid to private accounts. But some, it's not the case they stole the money, they used it for the purpose for which it was intended, although it was irregularly managed."

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore suspended all financial assistance channelled through the office of prime minister after it emerged that a total of 12 million euro funding from four aid countries was moved to unauthorised accounts.

Three officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs are in the Ugandan capital Kampala to investigate the whereabouts of the cash, which was earmarked for education, policing and tackling HIV and Aids in the poorest regions left suffering after years of conflict.

Mr Mbabazi said he never became suspicious of the activities of officials who are accused of carrying out the fraud from the basement of his office building. He maintained that, as prime minister, he is only involved in policy, while the management of public funds are in the hands of public officials.

Mr Mbabazi, who will hold crisis talks on Monday with the Irish Ambassador in Uganda, Anne Webster, also raised concerns over Uganda's strength in tackling corruption.

"The greatest weakness we have is the capacity to investigate. And we will be telling our friends, development partners and other friends, that the greatest help we need in the fight against corruption in Uganda is to build that capacity to investigate," he said.

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