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TASO sues Church of Uganda over diverting Shs100 million Global Fund cash

Court told Church of Uganda has admitted to diverting the money but that it has been stalling on paying back

EMBEZZLEMENT – The never resting ghost of Global Fund has taken its allure to the most unlikeliest of places, this time striking the moral fabrics of one of the oldest religious institutions in the country, Church of Uganda.

The Aids Support Organisation (Taso) has sued the church over misappropriating Shs100 million meant to run Global Fund activities.

According to documents before the Civil Division of the High Court, Taso says it entered into an agreement with the Registered Trustees of Church of Uganda to help implement some of the Global Fund malaria and health systems strengthening activities from July 2013 to April 2014.

Taso claims that it extended Shs2.5 billion to Church of Uganda for the implementation of Global Fund Round 10 malaria and entrusted the activities with the Church and in the said agreement, the Church had to ensure prudent management and utilisation of funds for only approved project activities.

The agreement also demanded that the Church of Uganda uses the money to implement the approved project activities detailed in the work plan and budget; immediately refund misdirected and diverted funds or losses resulting from the unauthorized transactions and refrain from re-allocation of funds within the budget categories without their permission.

Among the funded and approved activities were support of training of village health teams, and to support district transport systems of CD4s and blood samples to and from laboratories.

However, according to the suit, an audit discovered that Church of Uganda incurred ineligible expenses, some of which resulted from re-allocation and diversion of funds without seeking prior express written permission of Taso executive director, which was contrary to the terms of the agreement.

The findings of the audit were shared with the defendant, according to the suit.

“Having conducted various audit reviews, it was concluded that indeed the defendant had incurred ineligible expenses amounting over Shs100 million,” the affidavit reads in part.

Taso says the church admitted to diverting the funds and showed the willingness to refund and equivalent of $31,482 in Uganda Shilling as per the current Bank of Uganda exchange rate being the ineligible expenses but that since August 2017, requests and demands that the church settles its end of the bargain have proved futile.

Taso further contends that because of the church’s actions, its relationship with Global Fund is strained to the extent that it has stopped funding most of its projects until the said money is recovered from the church.

Taso also seeks Damages for breach of contract.

The court is yet to summon the Church of Uganda to file its defence and the case set down for mediation as its a practice by law.

The poisoned challice

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (or simply the Global Fund) is an international financing organization that aims to “attract, leverage and invest additional resources to end the epidemics of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The Fund has particularly been a source of major scandals involving top public officials, with the first incident in 2005 leading to the temporary suspension of five grants to the country.

The government was forced to probe mismanagement of the Fund, with a report by a judicial inquiry chaired by then Principle Judge James Ogoola implicating former health minister Jim Muhwezi and his deputy Mike Mukula as well as other senior officials.

At the time, Shs124.8 billion had been misappropriated by the officials.

And ten years later, the poisoned chalice revealed its allure again, with a new audit report by the Office of the Inspector General based in Geneva, Switzerland, revealing another plunder of Shs13 billion in inflated costs for anti-malaria drugs or lack of accountability.

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