How terrorists beat Customs - AG report

Sunday June 3 2012

By Yasiin Mugerwa

The Directorate of immigration has no idea of the number of immigrants in the country and those who have left, leaving the country at risk of terrorists and other wrong elements entering and exiting the country almost at will.

According to the latest findings of the Auditor General, the immigration department lacks the most basic checks at border posts, officials are negligent and some have taken bribes to allow persons to illegally enter into the country.

The AG found out that for most border posts, “appearing before an immigration officer was still at the will of passengers/travellers as no serious checks were instituted at the boarders.”

The AG’s March 2012 report only confirms the police action on Friday to release photographs of a suspected al Shabaab terrorist wanted by Kenyan security agencies, who is suspected to have crossed into Uganda on a Kalita Bus without being detected at the border. The man, Ahmed Khalid Mueller, according to police, is a German national with al Shabaab links.

On Tuesday, Daily Monitor reported that the travel documents recovered from al Shabaab hideouts in Al fitri, 12kms north of Mogadishu by the UPDF showed that one of the al Shabaab, commanders, Abubarker Nur Hussein in July 2010 travelled through Entebbe International Airport without being detected by airport security.

“It was noted that there was no system to circulate the information to all border entry points which could imply that the same people could easily use other border entry points especially by road through a neighbouring country [ to enter the country unnoticed],” the AG report reads in part.

What UPDF findings say
The UPDF findings, made possible by the on-going Amisom offensive against al Shabaab terrorists, serve to confirm the Auditor General’s findings. From the audit findings, it is clear that the risks presented by the militant group- al Shabaab - have been amplified primarily through the prevalence of porous border posts in the country.

The report to Parliament faults immigration officers for failing to scrutinise the information on the arrival and departure cards but instead just stamped them without taking significant steps to stop inadmissible travellers from entering the country and there was no secondary screening of immigrants in form of strategic checks.

The previous two audit reports (March 2010 and March 2011) have all indicated that in the absence of a national immigration policy, “it becomes difficult to regulate movement of people entering and exiting the country.” It was also noted that the loopholes in the country’s immigration department were due to absence of a computerised database for borders, regions, and headquarter operations.

Dr Stephen Kagoda, the Accounting Officer in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, explained that the directorate has developed an ICT master plan and once funds are made available, interconnectivity with all immigration posts and regional offices will be in place and the Directorate will be in position to reconcile the data on immigrants. However, the Auditor General said he saw no evidence that something was being done to avert the potential risks involved.

Police Chief Kale Kayihura at one time said some of the suspected terrorists arrested for their alleged role in Kampala’s July 2010 twin bombing which left about 80 people dead confessed to bribing immigration officers at Malaba to enter Uganda. Lt. Gen. Kayihura blamed the attack on the loopholes in the immigrations department.

At Madi-Opei border posts (Kitgum District), the Auditor General said there is only one staff and whenever he would be out of station, there would be no staff to manage the operations of the border post.