Eamon Gilmore, Irish minister for foreign affairs and trade.
Ireland’s aid to the Ugandan government remains in limbo, even after the latter returned Monday (Jan. 7) some €4 million ($5.2 million) in misallocated aid funds uncovered in October.
Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore and Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello did express satisfaction over the refund, and the reimbursement could help restore some donor confidence in Uganda, which suffered heavily from the scandal. Several other donors apart from Ireland froze upon learning of the embezzlement, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark, which has been asking for Uganda to return 5 million Danish kroner ($860,000) that the European country said were misappropriated.
Ireland suspended budget support to the Ugandan government after learning of aid fund misallocations in a report from Uganda’s auditor-general, and the country is taking steps to resume some of its work in the East African nation. The aid funds were meant for a rehabilitation project for the war-torn northern part of Uganda.
“I have now instructed my officials to examine options for a possible program of support for the people of Uganda during 2013,” Gilmore said in a statement.
Aid to the Ugandan government, however, will remain frozen — “until we are fully confident that the government has strengthened its internal financial controls and acted against officials who were implicated in this fraud,” a spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs told The Irish Times.
The incident could spark new calls for the Irish government to invest more in aid oversight. A hiring freeze on civil service and salary limits have made it difficult to track aid spending in developing countries, Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary General David Cooney told the public accounts committee of the Irish parliament in December.
“When you are managing the kind of money we are managing in the development program, I have to say I am concerned we are not able to fill all vacancies we need to fill,” he said, The Irish Times quoted him as saying.
The case in Uganda “has been a wake-up call” and “should not have happened,” he added.