The UN Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS) audit report into UNHCR’s Uganda operation, released this week, contains findings that show clear gaps and weaknesses in risk management in a number of areas during the period between July 2016 and December 2017. The audit followed the massive influx of refugees from South Sudan in 2016 – mid 2017, when UNHCR’s staffing capacity in key functions and in remote locations was very low, followed by a rapidly expanded operation in the second half of 2017 with many new staff and partners.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is in the business of saving lives and protecting people. Maintaining the trust and confidence of our donors and of the general public is of utmost importance to us. A number of internal reviews and technical oversight missions had identified risky areas in the operation during 2017. UNHCR worked closely with the OIOS auditors, who came to Uganda in February 2017, identifying issues and providing information that was used in the audit. We have accepted the recommendations of the OIOS auditors and have been working to address them well before this report was issued on 27 November, including in conjunction with Uganda’s Office of the Prime Minister.
Underscoring the urgency with which UNHCR was seized with these issues, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited Kampala in January 2018 to assess the complex challenges being faced in the refugee response and meet with the government at the highest level. Amongst other measures introduced, he agreed with the Prime Minister to launch the verification exercise into refugee registration data just completed. He also upgraded the leadership of the UNHCR operation to manage these challenges. Various corrective measures have been put in place, supported by a plan for ongoing and future actions. There is continuous follow-up.
Measures we have taken to date include revising or redesigning and rolling out new Standard Operating Procedures for the reception of refugees, their registration, protection, assistance (food, non-food items – core relief supplies) and case management. The complaints and feedback mechanisms for refugees have been strengthened with a new inter-agency call-centre. We have also strengthened staffing in key operations functions, in particular with regard to reinforced capacities in oversight and management. These include the establishment of a senior post in risk management and compliance. Monitoring and reporting functions have additionally been reviewed, revised and enhanced.
In regard to road construction, an investigation is ongoing and we are pursuing a full recovery of funds from any project partners of concern. Allowances paid to civil servants are verified through attendance records and payment to individual bank accounts with overall responsibility lying with the government.
To address concerns about the accuracy of registration data, a countrywide biometric verification exercise of the refugee and asylum-seeker population was conducted between March and October 2018. The Government of Uganda is now committed to using the appropriate tools for continuous registration, which is their responsibility, and to ensuring the integrity of the registration process. The strengthened registration and case management systems will improve service and assistance delivery, including distribution of food. UNHCR is working closely with the Office of the Prime Minister in the roll-out of these new systems and jointly addressing obstacles that emerge in their practical application at field level.
UNHCR has also closely reviewed its monitoring of water delivery trucking in remote refugee settlements. We are doing top-to-bottom reviews of contracts, invoices and delivery verification before proceeding with any payments. Significant progress has been made in reducing water trucking, which is expensive, from 37 per cent in May 2017 to 7 per cent over the course of the year, following completion of several water schemes in Rhino, Imvepi and Palorinya refugee settlements in northern Uganda. With the new measures in place, we expect a further reduction to 5 per cent in December 2018.
The audit recommendations vis-à-vis partnership management, performance monitoring, procurement procedures, non-food item distribution and warehouse management are being addressed and toughened measures have been put in place, including with partner organizations and the Office of the Prime Minister, where these activities are jointly implemented. Progress will be reviewed regularly.
UNHCR has additionally established a high-level dialogue with the Office of the Prime Minister and other government authorities on the audit findings, including regarding recovery of funds as may be needed. Fuel cards and vehicle tracking have been introduced for implementation in 2019. A task force has been set up to review projects implemented by the Office of the Prime Minister. A preliminary report is due in mid-December.
UNHCR is determined to ensure the full integrity of the refugee response in Uganda and is addressing all issues identified in the audit report.
Today, it was two vital reports that came out on the subject. Both was how the National Resistance Movement, the NRM and President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his government have been involved in the South Sudan civil war. For me this wasn’t shocking or really news. The reports locally has been there.
That the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) have supported the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) with arms, guns and weapons training. Even in the midst of an United Nations Embargo. Which wasn’t long ago, that the Uganda President promised to continue to supply the South Sudanese counterparts. However, none of that has gotten as a MEMO to the Western partners of Ugandan war-machine. Who has continued to supply them with arms and later on been traded to third parties in South Sudan.
While the guns and arms been flowing, the refugees has seek shelter and relief in Northern Uganda. As the same Western partners has donated funds as the massive refugee flow from across the border. As they are fleeing the conflict and civil war. The same Ugandan government, to trick the numbers and schemes to fund various operations of the state, even buy an expensive plot for a parking lot for the Office of the Prime Minister, has used them. This is the sort of activity happens from the government, who supply arms to the conflict, they are asking the same foreign donors to help with trouble it creates.
The UNCHR has spent a total of $129,9m in 2016 and $210m in 2017 on the Refugee operation in Uganda. This while the Ugandan authorities has ballooned the numbers and added over 300,000 refugees, which was ghosts. Therefore, the UNHCR and OPM had to after the scandal have a registration and verification drive, which also cost the UN Agency money. For instance, the OPM claimed to pay for 72 civil servants working on UNHCR projects and paying them salaries, but there was no clear documentation if they really existed or had a job. There was also procurement done without prior authorization or documents going up to about $34,4m, which was not approved off or cleared by the UNHCR.
When you combine these reports, show how blatant disregard the Ugandan government have, how they are both the mediator, the arms supplier and the refugee relief. While getting both the value for money for the arms, they are getting benefit on the refugees and they are supplying high-ranking government officials because of it. You can clearly get the gist of the operation.
The Ugandan government have been earning and using the conflict to gain monetary gains, in each side of the bargain. By circumventing the arms-embargo, while being a mediator and official “peace-maker” and hosting the refugees from the same conflict. That is really staggering, when your combining all the efforts and tricks done, to get another buck. Earning fortunes on others misfortune. Peace.
Yesterday, there was a bad accident on Lake Victoria as a party boat had an accident. This marine tragedy are showing the dire need for laws and regulations to be followed. Instead, the President are showing his magnitude of blame game. Which has been his Modus Operandi (M.O). The President could have used his position for something good. As the reflection of his non-caring and lax attitude is clearly showing.
The President and his regime isn’t really hands-on it. The President will not act upon this, expect for some PR exercises like being in a boat on Lake Victoria without a life-vest the day after the tragedy. Because, that is just showing his prime example of ignorance and care. As there are still plenty that the authorities are looking for, as the helicopters and police-boats have been looking for missing people.
That the President lacks care for his people is clear. That is evident with his statement, he comes with a message of condolences in the beginning paragraph, but from there. It is more blame-game, than anything else. That is proven by the quotes I have taken from his message. Because reading more, than that at this point. Is utterly pointless, as he recklessly before any proper investigation throws the owner of the boat overboard. Also, the mechanical status of the vessel too. Even if both is true, it is early to assume and assess that.
“It seems the boat was overloaded because whereas it had capacity for 50 people only, it had about 120 passengers on board. The passengers also seemed to be partying with a lot of music. They might not have heard the emergency commands of the captain, who is still unaccounted for” (Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, 25.11.2018).
“This is why, apart from the anti-bad fishing campaign which the UPDF has been carrying out for some months now on the lakes, the government has also ordered the electronic registration and monitoring of all the boats so that we can know who is where on the lake and why. The five times I crossed in small boats or canoes some of the lakes of East Africa (thrice Lake Victoria and two times Lake Tanganyika), I found them very dangerous to cross when you are not fully prepared; no overloading, standby engines, life jackets, reliable navigation etc etc. Let everybody take the warning from this tragedy” (Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, 25.11.2018).
So that President Museveni comes with a stern warning to everyone to be prepared in a written statement, to show up with no life-vest himself in his vessel on Lake Victoria. Will forever be imprinted on my mind, as people are waiting for the remains of people drowning in the Lake yesterday. These are family, friends and loved-ones who are gone. They are all missing because the laws and the regulatory affairs for marine vessels are not followed.
That the company didn’t follow the regulations with the Ministry, might not even follow protocol on the amount of people on the vessel, might all be true. But that isn’t the point after the tragedy. It is more the lack of control and the of real consequence of breaking the laws. If they are already in place, the business could still move-on, without consequence if the vessel had gone as usual. However, the tragedy hit and lives have been lost. This because the state, the marine units of the Police and the Ministry of Works and Transport. Even other authorities that didn’t have the ability to fulfill their mission, that is because the President haven’t cared or seen the need.
The President should have consoled the Republic, the President should have shown care and asked to wait for the Police and Army to investigate. As the families and friends are mourning their loved-ones, who died in the accident yesterday. The President didn’t do so, he came with arrogance and guns to shores of Lake Victoria. Showing his attitude and his vision. Blaming anyone in sight.
Even promising new ways of registration of vessels. However, this methods will not stop boats from running with to many in the crew or on-board. Just as long as there are no Fika Salama on the roads, the drivers of special and taxis are filled to capacity and far over the reach of seats with passengers. People knows this and the President does too. There are even bodas with dozens of people, and these are only supposed to have two persons on-board.
Therefore, the President has laws and regulations, but his authorities are not able to comply or even care for the public. That is a disgrace and shows how little other than self interest for being there. That is why he warns others, but doesn’t use it himself. He could even have a life-vest on, while being on the Lake. That is the kind of man he is. Peace.
Minister Hillary Onek and Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda can make any excuses in the books of civil service. Not that they will be true for that matter, because earlier this year. It was revealed that in several of the refugee camps and settlements in the Republic of Uganda. The Government of Uganda had inflated the numbers, so they to could gain international recognition and also monetary gains for the needed people seeking refuge there.
This was ghosting refugees and the ones fleeing wars in Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Where the majority of the refugees comes from. This was a real scandal, that shown how the authorities are using the misfortune of others to eat donor pledges and multi-national organizations supply of foreign currency. To facilitate food, shelter and other needed services for the ones living in the refugee camps and settlements.
Take a look at this:
“The Government of Uganda has one of the most progressive refugee policies, allowing refugees and asylum-seekers to live in gazetted refugee settlements and exercise freedom of movement and settlement within the country. As a routine practice, the government has provided a grace period of two months within which any registered refugee and asylum-seeker who missed the exercise, can approach OPM for verification. Taking this into consideration, the above verification numbers are preliminary. A more detailed analysis will be undertaken after the grace period. The difference between the initial verification target stands at 352,643 individuals. Among those, 255,490 individuals were verified as inactive and closed for the following reasons: a) 158,533 individuals whose whereabouts are unknown as reported by family members; b) 34,174 were reported by their families to have returned to their countries of origin; c) 9,481 were identified to have registered more than once; e) 3,931 were reported deceased; f) 1,489 were closed as they were Ugandan nationals; and (g) a verification exercise by OPM in April 2018 confirmed the urban refugee population to be 55,812” (UNHCR – ‘Joint statement by UNHCR and OPM on preliminary results of refugee verification exercise’ 08.11.2018).
So, the OPM and the National Resistance Movement (NRM) played this game with the lives of refugees and with the donor nations. Hoping to score more funding for non-existing refugees, getting funds and grants for people who never existed. That shows the devastation and extortion of the situation. When the ones in dire need and the ones in camp together with forged numbers are used in a scheme.
That is why the UPM and UNHCR had to do this exercise in the first place, as the lack of trust in the numbers. As they sky-rocketed and ballooned into ridiculous levels.
The OPM Refugee scandal of this years shows the value of oversight and due diligence, as the need to verify the numbers and the stats. That is why there is missing or ghosting over 352,000 people as refugees in Uganda. That shows how corrupt and how the state used the ability of refugees to take money from others.
Therefore, these sort of joint actions should happen often. To secure that the GoU and the OPM isn’t rigging the numbers in their favor. Peace.
Since February 2018, the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Dr. Ruhukana Rugunda has been under fire for faking the numbers of refugees in the settlements and camps within the Republic of Uganda. Where they we’re doubling and tripling the numbers of refugees in Kampala and West Nile. These figures and set-backs have clearly sent out a memo to the United Nations Organizations. As they have been active since March 2018.
On the 20th October 2018 this has been done by United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the OPM are now verifying the amounts of refugees. This is significant, since this will establish the real numbers and how many who is really there. The individuals and their fate is more important, than their numbers, but when they have cheated on it to get more donor funding. These numbers become more vital. So, that the donations and the grants to help out these individuals come to the right ones and not being eaten by government officials.
The numbers dropped on the 20th October 2018 are after a verification exercise done in Adjumani District, this being in Bidibidi settlement on the 16th October 2018. They we’re able to target what they estimate 85% of the population there. In Bidibidi verified a total of 203,392. That is not all, but shows to what extent the refugee crisis is.
While in Kampala: “the daily turnout continues to be very low despite additional efforts on mobilization. The verification site remained open on Saturday to allow students and others to be verified over the weekend. However, over the period of six days, only 1,583 individuals were verified, majority being Congolese. In light of the low attendance, the verification team has operated at reduced capacity and the final day has been agreed by OPM-UNHCR as Wednesday 24th October” (OPM-UNHCR VERIFICATION EXERCISE: Update, 20.10.2018).
Therefore, the total estimate with all this exercises since March 2018 to 20th October 2018. Which states: “The ongoing verification of refugees in Uganda that started on 1st March 2018, verified a total of 17,428 individuals last week bringing the total as of 20th October 2018 to 1,088,415” (OPM-UNHCR VERIFICATION EXERCISE: Update, 20.10.2018).
So the are margins of error are still there. But the real crunched numbers are there. As the UNCHR wants the truth, as they are trying to collect funding for the operations of the settlements. Since the Ugandan government also wants to secure the donations too. This is all part of that and validate the need for the refugees. The scandal could block the support and trust in the agencies and the rampant forgery of numbers earlier in the year. This exercise was needed to build trust. Now the accuracy is more likely there. They might still try to find a way to inflate it, but it will be harder. Because the base-numbers through the verification makes it harder.
This was needed because of the lie, the lie of the numbers. These are now shattered. Now, the reality is there. It is still a million refugees and they need help. Both in the present, but also for building their future. That perspective is needed. This is people who fled burning villages, militias and armies fighting each other. They need space and trust to grow and rebuild. These people are trying to build a home. That is what should be focus and giving them hope in a dire situation. They are not just numbers.
Even if this story has been about the baseline numbers of refugees in the republic. That is because of the OPM inflated numbers to cheat donors funds. To earn money on their tragedy. That shall not be forgotten. But in the same manner. We need to discuss, how we can give this people hope for a better tomorrow. Peace.