Uganda recalls top embassy staff in Denmark

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has instituted investigations and recalled staff at the Uganda Embassy in Denmark implicated in the scheme to embezzle government money.

The ministry said yesterday that it does not condone corruption and that the use of public funds must adhere to the principles of transparency and efficiency.

“The ministry wishes to express grave concern about the allegations contained in the article [in Daily Monitor of August 24] and takes this matter seriously. The ministry, in consultation with the Permanent Secretary/Secretary to Treasury and the Auditor General, will carry out a thorough investigation into the matter,” it said in a statement.

“In the meantime, the officers implicated have been recalled to the ministry headquarters to pave way for investigations,” the statement signed by the ministry Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Patrick S. Mugoya, added.

Yesterday Daily Monitor published a story based on an audio clip where the diplomats at the embassy in Denmark held a zoom meeting and discussed a fraudulent scheme to share the embassy money they were not able to spend during the 2019/2020 financial year that ended in June.

Section 17 (2) of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), 2005 stipulates: “A vote that does not expend money appropriated to it for the financial year shall at the close of the financial year, repay the money to the Consolidated Fund.”

In the Zoom meeting, the Ugandan diplomats in Denmark resolved that each of the three top diplomats would get $3,120 (about Shs11.4m) as per diem for no work done, while their junior colleagues took $2,160 (about Shs8m) in fraudulent per diem.

We could not independently verify the attendees of the meeting. But the senior embassy officials who would ordinarily attend such a meeting include the Head of Mission, Ms Nimisha Madhvani, and the Deputy Head of Mission, Mr Elly Kamahungye Kafeero, the Minister Counsellor / Accounting Officer, Ms Alex Hope Mukubwa, and the First Secretary, Mr Gordon Katureebe.

Others are the Third Secretary / Head of Chancery, Mr Richard Biribonwoha, the Administrative Attache, Ms Sylvia Nambooze Kayongo, and Mr Mugisha Wilfred, the Immigration Attache.

During the same zoom meeting, one of the officers suggested that all the staff join hands to raise money to bribe the auditors whenever they showed up at the mission in order to silence the audit queries.

On May 25, the outgoing accounting officer at the embassy, Ms Alex Hope Mukubwa, wrote to the Permanent Secretary and Secretary to the Treasury, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, requesting that they be allowed to retain the unspent funds.
Mr Muhakanizi, however, rejected the request.

Sources privy to the goings-on at the Denmark mission told Daily Monitor that Mr Muhakanizi’s communication prompted the diplomatic staff to convene a Zoom meeting even when the mission had been closed for several months due to Covid-19.

The meeting was attended by, among others, the Head of Mission, Ms Nimisha Madhvani, Deputy Head of Mission Elly Kamahungye Kafeero, the administrator only known as Sylvia, and a one Richard.

In the recording a male envoy is heard telling his colleagues that they could allocate themselves some of the unspent money as per diem and not safari allowances. Then an anonymous official asks about the number of days they would be entitled to per diem.

The male envoy is then heard revealing the criteria of how they would share the government money. Under the Foreign Affairs standing orders officers at ambassadorial level are entitled to per diem of $390 (about Shs1.4m) per a day, while junior staff are entitled to $360 (about Shs1.3m) a day.