OPM fires four officials over fraud in refugee camps

Some of the South Sudan refugees undergoing verification at Bidibidi settlement in Yumbe in April 2022. PHOTO/FELIX WAROM OKELLO.

What you need to know:

  • By press time, it was not clear how much the dismissed volunteers and refugee registration officers had swindled. 

The Office of the Prime Minister has fired its four officers over alleged fraud in the ongoing refugee verification exercise in West Nile region settlement camps.

West Nile region OPM refugee desk officer Mr Solomon Osakan Monitor fraud was reported in Bidibidi and Rhino refugee settlement camps which prompted action.

"During verification, some of our people employed as volunteers picked money from some of the refugees. When verifying, fingerprints are captured to clearly show a person who is physically present and absent,” he explained while he noted that: “…the volunteers add those who have not come. Some of the refugees add their relatives in South Sudan so that they can get additional food.”

By press time, it was not clear how much the dismissed volunteers and refugee registration officers had swindled. 

However, a refugee registration officer in Bidibidi refugee camp who preferred anonymity accused OPM administrators of being biased in their crack down on fraudsters.

"Fraud is a punishable offence according to the law but the administration of OPM took the decision of firing our West Nile colleagues hurriedly. At least OPM officials should have investigated and called for a one on one meeting or else issue a warning letter," he said.

Ms Brigitte Eno, the UNHCR's Deputy Country Representative in Uganda said the “shift in numbers of the refugees they are seeing could be true because there have been cases where some numbers have been added by the volunteers.”

"We have to take into account the fact that some of the refugees have been going back to South Sudan after the 2018 peace agreement. We are in contact with colleagues in South Sudan and in other countries like Burundi and are planning to organize voluntary repatriation of the refugees who wish to go back,” she said.

She added: “It is not necessarily that there is fraud but there is a need to consider the spontaneous return of those who are leaving the country.”

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