Uganda Monitor: $300 Million Lost to Corruption Per Year; Much Foreign Aid Gets Into Wrong Hands

While the Ugandan Parliament sounds a defiant tone to threats of removal of donor aid over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the government would be hard pressed to make up the loss of funds. According to this Monitor (Uganda) report, Uganda relies on funds from donor nations to account for 29% of the national budget. A significant portion of money, $300 million, is lost to corruption according to the World Bank.

On point, The Monitor also recently revealed that MPs get the equivalent of just over$44,000 to purchase a car. This news sparked outrage among civil society in Uganda. The Monitor reported:

Outpourings of disbelief mixed with anger at a House which has been applauded for taking a firm stand against waste in government clouded the re-opening of Parliament as members struggled to defend themselves.

Civil society leaders described the MPs’ gleeful acceptance of the cash as “greed of the highest order”.

“This issue of the vehicles for MPs shows that the 9th Parliament is no different from the rest. It is a shame that they too have turned into vultures,” the Executive Director Anti-Corruption Coalition Uganda, Ms Cissy Kagaba, said.

“These MPs should walk the talk about being pro-people. The opposition too shouldn’t be part of the loot. This money should be returned and used to increase teachers’ salaries.”

Such public extravagance might concern American taxpayers who are also tightening their belts amid a bleak economy and are worried that their dollars support a government poised to impose the death penalty on HIV positive gay people, with life in prison for others. In fiscal year 2010, the United States pledged over $382 million in economic aid. That does not include over $36 million in military aid. Overall, Uganda is within the top 25 recipients of American foreign assistance.

While donor nations have a significant investment in Uganda and the region, there might be a point at which the American public will voice concern. A lack of respect for basic human rights, corruption and cronyism are factors that may work together to extend the budget tightening from here to Uganda.