Report blames OPM scam on Irish government

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Kampala. A new report into the extent of plundering of donor aid by officials in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) has partly faulted the Irish government for ignoring warning signs that should have prompted them to press for more transparency.

The report prepared by the Oxford-based development consultancy firm, Mokoro, also described the high profile corruption in which an estimated Shs60b was plundered “as a breach of trust” by the Ugandan government.
The Irish Times reported on Monday that the audit had also established that tax payer’s money funneled through Irish Aid, the overseas development agency of Ireland, “was overambitious, did not sufficiently respond to a changing environment, and was not sufficiently prioritised.”

Dublin hired the consultancy firm to study in detail the Irish Aid’s activities in Uganda for the period between 2010 and 2014 during which the fraud was uncovered, following a forensic audit by Auditor General John Muwanga.
The exposé, first published by this newspaper, infuriated several development partners, among them Norway, Sweden, the Republic of Ireland and Denmark, who took back-to-back decisions to freeze aid transfers to Uganda, and also suspended direct funding through government.

During a meeting with President Museveni in late 2012, the development partners also demanded that the stolen cash, which was meant for recovery and development activities in northern Uganda and Karamoja, be refunded. The OPM scandal made headlines five years ago, and former Principal Accountant at OPM Godfrey Kazinda, who was prime suspect, was handed a five year-jail term. The government reimbursed Euros4 million (Shs14b) in misappropriated funds to Irish Aid.

The report submitted to Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs called for a “more structured” risk assessment, which would help Irish Aid spot the tell-tale signs and guard against future plundering. Authorities at the Irish embassy were not readily available to discuss the matter.

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