KAMPALA. The UN has told the Uganda government that there is “no space for corruption” and demanded an investigation into the alleged scam in refugee funds to punish all the culprits.
The UN has demanded an investigation into alleged corruption, fraud, creating ghost refugees and mismanaging money and other relief aid.
Other allegations include refugees being required to pay bribes in order to get screened and scholarships meant for refugees being handed to Ugandans.
In a statement yesterday, the UN resident coordinator, Ms Rosa Malango, indicated that “the UN has a shared commitment with development partners to transparency and accountability”.
“We have communicated to partners the internal administrative and oversight measures being put in place to get to the bottom of the allegations. We are committed to ensuring that anyone found culpable is brought to justice. The UN has no space for corruption, fraud, trafficking of women and girls or the intimidation of UN staff,” the statement reads in part.
Ms Malango said they were embarking on the biometric system to verify the refugee population with immediate effect.
Diplomatic sources told Daily Monitor that the alleged scam that has sucked in top refugee department officials in the Office of the Prime Minister and UN office in Kampala has “rattled” the entire UN hierarchy in New York and Geneva and the donor community, especially the USA, European Union (EU) and private donors.
The donors, sources at the UN headquarters in New York said, have demanded “proper accountability” and tasked the responsible agencies at the highest level to ensure the necessary action is taken.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme mainly rely on voluntary contributions from donor governments, private individuals and other pool funding mechanisms from NGOs to support their operations around the world.
The Kampala US and EU missions, two of the biggest funders of refugee operations, last week tasked the government to take action on all officials involved in the scam and also demanded a “verification exercise” of all refugees in Uganda.
According to UNHCR in Kampala, Uganda is home to 1.4 million refugees, out of which one million are said to come from the neighbouring war-torn South Sudan.
The UNHCR works closely with the World Food Programme to distribute food relief to the refugees.
Sources said there has also emerged information of OPM and UNHCR officials colluding to secretly extradite wanted asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The sources said the allegations are being looked into. There are also allegations of trafficking minor girls and women to marry men who are not of their choice after paying a bribe to officials at the border crossing points.
There are also claims that officials interfere in the election of leaders in refugee communities to prevent individuals deemed too vocal from getting elected.
Diplomatic sources also told Daily Monitor that Ugandan diplomats at the Permanent Mission to the UN in New York have begun a massive “damage control” bid to salvage Uganda’s image.
Population. In the West Nile districts of Moyo and Adjumani, the South Sudan refugees are said to outnumber the citizens but following the latest storm on the “ghost refugees” scam, this claim is suspect. Other districts hosting refugees include Yumbe, which is home to Bidi Bidi settlement camp—which is probably the second largest in the world hosting about 285,969 refugees. However it is said to be in a “hopeless mess”. Arua has 247,700 refugees and Lamwo 34,619. Other districts with refugee camps are: Isingiro, Kamwenge, Kiryandongo, Hoima and Kyegegwa.