Almost Shs2 billion in development aid meant for post-war recovery efforts in northern Uganda and Karamoja sub-region was used to purchase luxury vehicles for ministers in the Premier’s office, according to information before the Public Accounts Committee.
Beneficiaries of the new cars include Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and five other ministers.
The officials are entitled to government cars but MPs say they will probe how the cars were bought using money meant to help needy people in northern Uganda rebuild their lives after two decades of war.
Listed among the recipient offices are the Prime Minister, who besides a Mercedes Benz, also had two cars for his convoy purchased off the money. Others who got a car each are a Deputy Prime Minister, the Karamoja Affairs minister, Information, Teso Affairs and Bunyoro Affairs ministers.
The MPs are also investigating the whereabouts of at least Shs400 million that the Ministry of Finance had released to OPM to buy cars, but which was not spent for that purpose.
At least Shs400m was given to M/s Spear Motors Ltd; M/s Toyota Ltd took over Shs1 billion for six ministers’ vehicles (about Shs200m each).
The money was paid off a stash that had been secretly diverted from the Peace Recovery and Development Programme and hidden in a secret account operated by Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana and other top officials at OPM.
Procurement for the cars for the new ministers had started in June 2011 and were completed by October last year. However, it is not clear why, instead of using the money sent by Finance, OPM officials diverted the money for Acholi and Karamoja.
Several donor nations including the UK, Norway, Sweden, Ireland and Denmark, which had provided in excess of Shs70 billion for reconstruction efforts in northern Uganda and poverty reduction interventions in Karamoja, have since cut their aid over the corruption in OPM.
Yesterday, MPs said they would demand answers. “The ministers and permanent secretary will have to answer why money for the poor was used to buy them vehicles,” Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo (NRM) said.
The Youth MP Western, Mr Gerald Karuhanga (Independent), told Daily Monitor yesterday that Mr Mbabazi’s new Benz was worth Shs400 million, adding that he would be asked to explain the purchase. It is not clear whether the ministers knew about the source of the money that was used to buy their vehicles.
Meanwhile, Bank of Uganda officials are expected in PAC today to explain their role in the loss of millions of dollars in foreign aid.