UGANDA: Criminal probe recommended in AIDS fund scam
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
© Lucy hannan/IRIN
The grants were for programmes to combat AIDS.
KAMPALA, 2 June (PLUSNEWS) - A judicial probe into the mismanagement of grants to Uganda from the Geneva-based Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has recommended that former health ministers and other managers of the funds be investigated for possible criminal prosecution.
Former health minister Jim Muhwezi and his two deputies, Mike Mukula and Alex Kamugisha, have all been implicated in the mismanagement of funds.
Muhwezi, the commission of inquiry said, influenced the recruitment of Tiberius Muhebwa - who headed the unit that managed the funds in the health ministry - against the recommendation of consultants who had identified another candidate. It called for immediate "criminal investigations against Muhebwa over forgery, uttering false documents, cover up and kindred crimes."
Muhebwa, it added, had "failed badly to efficiently and effectively provide a safe managerial environment to protect the resources and operations of the GF [Global Fund]".
Kamugisha is said to have influenced the recruitment of his son, Julius Mugisha, to work on the project.
"All three MOH [Ministry of Health] ministers and their personal assistants must be investigated further with a view to prosecution for, among others, perjury, causing financial loss, uttering false documents," said the 400-page report, handed over to President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday.
The commission, headed by Justice James Ogoola, said documents submitted for accountability by the ministers should be subjected to a forensic audit and allowances that were wrongly paid should be refunded by all persons who received them.
Ogoola described the operations of the fund as a "drama of tragedy", adding: "Careers and personal reputation may be lost in this sordid story but the greatest losers have been the people of Uganda. As the sick lay dying, the greedy middlemen dived for the kill."
He expressed shock at the "cavalier way in which the three ministers were so indifferent about the whole issue of non-accountability of the funds, and the disastrous mismanagement of the GF Uganda."
The report recommended further inquiry into the "political, personal, family, business, or other relationships between minister Muhwezi and Muhebwa". Muhwezi, it said, should be held "politically responsible and accountable" for the "overall mismanagement of the project".
It said staff salaries were too high and there were no scales or ranges, while allowances were questionable and did not exist in the government's schedules.
The commission cited cases of diversion of funds meant for the GF programmes, specifically US $22,300 used for the medical treatment of another former minister and long time friend of President Yoweri Museveni in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2005. Another case was when money was borrowed for the 'Yes' campaign during the 2005 referendum on political systems.
Museveni told the commission that he was happy that its work had already led to the recovery of some diverted money and the Criminal Investigation Department was moving on to prosecute suspects, adding, "impunity has gone too far in Uganda and it must stop."
The Global Fund temporarily suspended grants worth US$367 million to Uganda in August 2005, citing "serious mismanagement" of the funds. It lifted the suspension in November 2005, following assurances by the government that it would look into the management of the money.