Parliament demands answers from govt over refugee scam

By Daily Monitor

FILE-- In this file photo of Monday Jan.6 2014, Refugees who fled the recent violence in South Sudan and crossed the border into Uganda arrive and await transportation from a transit center in the town of Koboko, Uganda, to a nearby settlement in Arua District, in northern Uganda. More than one million refugees have fled South Sudan’s ongoing civil war, overwhelming aid agencies and creating one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. The United Nations said Friday that South Sudan joins Syria, Afghanistan, and Somalia as countries that have produced over one million refugees. (AP Photo/Rebecca Vassie/file)

Parliament has asked the government to come out clean over a scam that has engulfed the Office of Prime Minister (OPM) where ghost refugees were created on databases while relief items for refugees were also mismanaged.

The Daily Monitor last week exposed wrongdoings in the government and donor agencies handling refugees in Uganda, with allegations ranging from inflation of refugee numbers and exhortation from refugees by government officials.

Some refugees were required to pay bribes in order to get registered, while scholarships meant for refugees were awarded to Ugandans in a scandal that has dented Ugansda’s reputation as a safe haven for refugees.

The United Nations has already put the government on notice over the scam and Parliament this afternoon added its voice of condemnation, demanding that the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda clears the air over what is going wrong with refugees’ money and relief items.

Kasilo County MP, Elijah Okupa, said the refugee scam has tainted the good image that Uganda had built by providing sanctuary to refugees, warning that refugees are no longer safe in Uganda with risks of kidnap and abduction.

“There are allegations that some refugees have been kidnapped and taken abroad. Uganda had built a name and we need to clean our house. Parliament needs answers so that we are able to understand the gravity of this matter,”Mr Okupa said.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga demanded that the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN agency in-charge of refugees, also come out with an explanations regarding how the refugee scam unfolded.

“We need answers from the government. There is something going on within UNHCR. Who has the data for the refugees? Who has the database? It is very serious and we need answers,” Ms Kadaga said.

As a way forward, Obongi County MP, Hassan Kaps Fungaroo, will table a motion that will lead to comprehensive debate regarding the situation of refugees in Uganda.

“The issue of refugees needs external intervention away from the Office of the Prime Minister. Those things of a statement from the OPM will not work. You [the Speaker] should use your powers to break into that House,” Mr Fungaroo said.