Mismanagement of Donor Funds in Uganda
Uganda, a country with one of the highest numbers of refugees, around 1.1 million, has faced accusations of aid mismanagement since early 2018. Included in this number of refugees is roughly a million refugees from South Sudan where a civil war broke out in 2013 that has left millions dead or uprooted from their homes, and other refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Not long ago, Uganda was hailed as one of the best places to be a refugee with it’s liberal immigration policies. Uganda has an open-entry refugee policy that allows refugees access to public health services, free movement within Uganda, and plots of land for settlement and cultivation.
However, this week an audit report was released by the UN Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS) following a long investigation into the UNHCR’s (the UN refugee agency) Uganda operation from July 2016 and December 2017. The audit report showed that the UNHCR wasted millions of dollars in Uganda in 2017 including awarding major contracts improperly, overpaying for goods and services, and failing to avoid corruption and waste.
Another investigation by the Ugandan government looked into alleged fraud over the number of refugees reported. This investigation, managed by the office of the prime minister and the UNHCR, found that Uganda hosts 1.1 million refugees instead of the previously reported 1.4 million.
Four Ugandan government employees, including Apollo Kazungu, commissioner for refugees in the prime minister’s office, and some members of his senior staff – Walter Omondi, John Baptist Sentamu and Francis Nkwasibwe – were suspended. They face allegations of collusion with members of staff from the UNHCR and the World Food Programme to purposefully exaggerate the number of refugees reported. It has been alleged that the officials made up names in refugee settlements and defrauded millions of dollars in aid.
On Nov. 30, the UNHCR released a statement on the refugee response programme in Uganda. In the statement, the UNHRC accepts the recommendations of the audit and pledges to work with Uganda’s Office of the Prime Minister to fix and right the finding of the audit. One of the biggest steps is new measures that the UNHCR has taken to revise new Standard Operating Procedures for the reception of refugees, their registration, protection, assistance and case management.
Whether or not any number of these new measures will be effective in better managing the aid money given to Uganda for its refugee program can only be seen over time. Investigations and new policy decisions are currently still underway.