By GARRETT BARRY
African governments cannot simply be trusted to spend their aid funding appropriately, says Prof. Daniel Osabu-kle, a faculty member of Carleton University’s institute of African studies.
His reaction comes after the government of Ireland announced it would stop sending aid to the government of Uganda due to evidence of embezzlement. Instead of ending funding, Osabu-kle said governments should do more to monitor development programs.
On Oct. 25, Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs announced the suspension of all assistance to the Government of Uganda.
A department release said Ugandan Auditor General John F.S. Muwanga had found evidence of “significant financial mismanagement” in one of Uganda’s development programs which was partially funded by Irish aid.
“Ireland’s aid program is strongly focused on the poorest people and communities in sub-Saharan Africa…I regard it as intolerable that any development assistance should be misappropriated or diverted,” said Eamon Gilmore, the Irish minister for foreign affairs and trade, in the release.
On Nov. 5, Gilmore said the money which was mishandled will be repaid in full, but added that Irish aid funds will remain suspended.
Though Ireland’s government is taking a hard stance on corruption, Osabu-kle insists the decision will only punish the people of Uganda. He says donors can and must ensure that the purpose for which the aid is given is being achieved.
“They have the Canadian embassy in Ghana. If you give money for the construction of a bridge, somebody can go and see that the materials are being bought and you can see the process going on.”
Osabu-kle asked “what reason” donors would have to simply trust developing countries to spend aid funding correctly.
Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has launched an investigation into the allegations by the auditor general. So far, 17 Ugandan government officials have been suspended without pay while the investigation continues.
“We regret that this happened and as a government we are sorry. It was obviously a criminal act and regrettable. We fully understand the anger and we condemn these acts in the strongest terms possible.” Mbabazi said in a press release.
Mariam Tee, the vice president of Carleton University’s East African Students Association, says aid efforts often produce little results in Uganda. She says it is sad to see the poverty that exists in Kampala, the capital city.
“The economy is literally collapsing. Parents are trying their best to get their kids out of the country, but only the parents that have money are able to do that,” Tee said, adding that most adults who are wealthy enough to send their children away have been working in the Ugandan government
“You hear about all the aid that’s coming to Uganda, and you go on the ground and see what’s being done–nothing. There’s completely nothing.”
Tee, like many Ugandans, is upset with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. She says nothing is going to change in Uganda as long as he is in power.
“If someone can tackle the embezzlement and corruption, I would say the country would pick up and get on it’s feet,”
Yet Tee says she doesn’t know of any politician in Uganda who can face that challenge.
Museveni was re-elected for a fourth term in February of 2011, but election procedures were strongly criticized by European Union observers.
A statement released two days after the election by observers said while there had been improvements in the process, the election was “marred by avoidable administrative and logistical failures” which left many Ugandan citizens unable to vote.
The report added that that the competing candidates in the election were facing a “severely compromised” playing field.
Ben Jones, a lecturer in the school of development studies at the University of East Anglia, spent almost one year researching in rural Uganda. He said that he was surprised with what he found there.
Jones said he expected the government to be a central institution in people’s lives. He said he was surprised to learn that government structures “were not particularly important” to the villagers in Obelai, where he was living.
Jones said there was not much cooperation between federal government officials and village council officials in Obelai. He said that Obelai’s Parish chief, a government official who is charged with monitoring a small number of villages nearby Obelai, rarely visited or became involved with village politics.
He described the government as something people had a hard time talking about. Jones said that he sometimes felt the government wasn’t interested in the rural village.
Prof.Osabu-kle said the blame for the poverty in Uganda cannot be placed only on Museveni or the Ugandan government.
“Foreign aid has been given with a hidden agenda… It has become like business. It serves the interests of the donors rather than the interests of the recipients. Aid has so far been designed to boost the economies of the donors. It comes with strings attached,” said Osabu-kle.
“The aid regime has been screwed up.”