Friday February 8 2013

Uganda returns stolen aid to Norway: minister


Uganda has returned three million euros in aid to Norway after it was misappropriated, the Norwegian minister for development aid said Wednesday.

"Corruption is (the same as) stealing from poor people, and for that we have zero tolerance," Heikki Holmaas said on Twitter.

"Uganda has repaid us 23 million 'corruption kroner' (3.1 million euros or $4.2 million)," he added.

An investigation by the auditor general of Uganda last year found that 10 million euros ($13.4 million) in aid had been funnelled into private accounts linked to the prime minister's office in Kampala.

Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland and Britain all froze their aid to the country after the scandal was revealed.

Ireland and Denmark had already said the government of Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has pledged to reimburse them. Mbabazi has denied having any knowledge of the incident and has rejected calls to step down.

The foreign aid was meant to go to parts of the country that had been ravaged by its civil war.

A guerrilla campaign was waged between 1987 and 2006 in Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army, which became notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to become child soldiers.

Norway's Holmaas said direct aid to Uganda would only resume after a thorough review of how it was used.

Uganda ranks among the world's 45 least-transparent states and has the highest level of corruption in East Africa, according to graft watchdog Transparency International.