The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR has lauded the Ugandan government for its move to investigate allegations of wrongdoing in government refugee programmes.
According to a release from the UN agency, Uganda’s Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, initiated the probe after reports received by UNHCR and the World Food Programme alleged corruption and grave misconduct by officials involved in refugee assistance.
The allegations include faking documents on delivery of food assistance as well as demanding refugees pay bribes to access various services that should be free of cost.
“UNHCR takes all allegations of corruption, fraud and misconduct very seriously. Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those involved in refugee response causes great harm to the people we care for and erodes public confidence and donor trust,” said Valentin Tapsoba, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa.
“It is also a disservice to the model policies of Uganda, a country hosting more than a million refugees.” Tapsoba added.
Uganda operates an open border policy and allows refugees to enjoy similar rights to those enjoyed by its own citizens, provides access to social services and allocates land for shelter and agriculture.
In Uganda, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) leads the overall refugee response in partnership with UNHCR. The OPM and UNHCR coordinate their response with other UN agencies as well as local and international NGOs.
In order to enhance effective oversight, as well as restore public trust and donor confidence, UNHCR is supporting the government to take immediate steps to address the situation.
The government of Uganda has the responsibility to register all refugees arriving in the country. To assist in this process, UNHCR is urgently making available its globally tried and tested tools and systems to re-enrol and verify the refugee population. This will strengthen the integrity of the data underpinning the refugee operation. Together with the government, UNHCR is also reviewing and strengthening procedures and monitoring across all refugee operations to curtail opportunities for corruption and exploitation of refugees living in Uganda and reinforce measures to ensure that vulnerable refugees, particularly women and girls, are well protected.
“UNHCR’s priority is to protect refugees and to ensure that the resources provided by governments and donors are responsibly managed, with full accountability,” added UNHCR’s Tapsoba adding that corrupt acts of individuals should not be attributed to the integrity of all – who are providing a valuable service to humanity.
“UNHCR commends the Government and people of Uganda, who have offered remarkable hospitality and generosity in sharing their land and resources for decades. Over a million refugees entered Uganda in the last year and a half. Uganda currently hosts over 1.4 million refugees from South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Somali and other countries.” Reads the statement.