Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gilmore shakes his clenched iron fist at corrupt Uganda

Having ostracized the Vatican from his diplomatic wigwam Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has now shaken his iron fist at Uganda and given its prime minister a flavour for ‘Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way’

The brazen and barefaced misappropriation of €4 million by the Nomenklatura of Uganda of money donated by struggling and compassionate Irish taxpayers should serve as a sharp wake-up call to our own authorities and lead to a radical and fundamental policy change with respect to Irish Aid.

We have been informed by the Tánaiste that this money is to be repaid. The Prime Minister of Uganda has told the Irish public that he is not implicated in its misappropriation. But there are no instances, anywhere on the globe, of endemic corruption prevailing among public officials who are not aided, succoured, protected and abetted by politicians, as various costly tribunals in this country and the media reports about Uganda over many years have so clearly illustrated. It is also noteworthy that it was not the Irish authorities who uncovered this misappropriation and this begs the critical question of how much more of the €600 million+ spent on Irish Aid reaches unauthorised banks accounts in disreputable and decrepit jurisdictions.

Officials attached to the office of Uganda’s President Museveni were accused last year of accepting millions of dollars in bribes. The Ugandan Parliament met in emergency session and demanded that the Uganda’s prime minister, foreign minister and internal affairs minister recuse themselves from office while the parliament investigated allegations that millions of dollars in bribes were paid by an oil company. Sam Kutesa, the foreign minister, who was involved in a separate scandal involving the use of public money to renovate a hotel, resigned in October 2011.

The Ugandan Government was also accused of losing an estimated €115 million in 2007 from various scams during the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting. The former Ugandan vice president resigned after being accused of being a beneficiary to the tune of €3 million to provide luxury cars used to transport visiting dignitaries.

As recently as last August Transparency International cited Uganda as registering the highest incidence of bribery cases in East Africa and fingered the Ugandan police and the Ugandan judiciary as being the most corrupt institutions in that country.

Against this appalling and indefensible background the Tánaiste is telling us that he is asking his Department to examine how Ireland could assist the Ugandan Government to recover misappropriated funds through processes similar to those employed by our Criminal Assets Bureau. This tongue-in-cheek exercise in solicitous introspection is to take place at a time when Ireland has had to face the implications of €500 million of assets being unlawfully and wilfully dissipated by the Quinn family by recruiting a Russian entity, unfamiliar to most Irish taxpayers, to untangle that opaque cobweb arrangement with the inducement of an upfront payment of €31 million  with no strings attached and 20% of the proceeds of what is eventually retrieved by the State from this dreadful illicit debacle.

Uganda is set to become the beneficiary of revenue derived from the recent discovery of large oil reserves, estimated to have the potential to deliver at least 2.5 billion barrels that will yield tax revenue of over €1.5 billion per year. The Ugandan Government has been fit to spend over €570 million on military aircraft to protect this asset. It is time for Irish Aid to cut the umbilical cord of easy Irish cash.  The limited resources of the Criminal Assets Bureau need to be fully and forensically and rigorously employed in this country hunting rogue bankers and other delinquent renegades and not used teach the Ugandan Government how to discover the road to virtue, especially in the light of our curtailed resources and the fact that not a single recruit has been enrolled in An Garda Siochána in four years.

The compassion of the Irish people must not be exploited by either vested interests, do-gooders or corrupt manipulators, nor should aid programmes be of indeterminate character. A root and branch reform of the Irish Aid programme is urgently required combined with an immediate severe pruning of its budget.

Should tax relief could be granted to those who wish to donate to corrupt countries in a personal capacity?  The era of saddling society as a whole with an outrageous burden of unaffordable generosity that fosters a culture of infinite chronic dependency must end now.

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