UNHCR and OPM will begin verifying the number of refugees in Uganda next month
PIC: UNHCR's Ongaro said fraud allegations have not yet affected activities in Uganda. (Credit: Denis Dibele)
KAMPALA - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) has said it does not suspect that officials in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) inflated the numbers of refugees.
But the UN and its refugee agency raised complaints of suspected fraud in the humanitarian aid operations in Uganda involving OPM officials through the (UN) resident co-ordinator. The UN allegations were informed by a whistleblower’s complaints against OPM refugee officials received at the end of last year.
“We do not suspect that the OPM officials inflated the numbers of refugees,” Teresa Ongaro, the UNHCR senior regional spokesperson, said during a press conference at the organisation’s offices in Kampala yesterday.
But she explained the UNHCR and OPM will starting next month begin verifying the number of refugees in Uganda. It is the OPM that records all refugees in Uganda, and its figures are relied on to determine the scale of humanitarian assistance.
“Governments and donors have indicated that they will withhold funding unless the accuracy of the refugee numbers in Uganda is confirmed. But, as far as I know, the fraud allegations have not yet affected our activities in Uganda so far,” Ongaro added.
The UN refugee agency stated that “unsubstantiated” reports in various media have threatened to tarnish the reputation of Uganda, which is currently Africa’s largest refugee hosting state. The country has one of the most progressive policies worldwide for people fleeing conflict and persecution.
The refugee programme in Uganda, the UN agency added, is important because of the multiple emergencies unfolding in various parts of the world, and the exemplary role the country has played in “welcoming 1.4 million people” seeking international protection.
The UNCHR also dismissed reports that its country representative, Bornwell Kantande, had been replaced following the fraud allegations. It said Kantande remains the agency head in the country, and is performing his functions normally.