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Uganda detains top officials for alleged coronavirus aid fraud

by Reuters
Thursday, 9 April 2020 14:21 GMT

KAMPALA, April 9 (Reuters) - Uganda has arrested four government officials including two senior technocrats for alleged fraud in the procurement of food aid for vulnerable people during the coronavirus lockdown, the office of President Yoweri Museveni said on Thursday.

Those arrested include the permanent secretary in the office of the prime minister (OPM), Christine Guwatudde Kintu, a statement from the president's office said.

On Saturday, military personnel began distributing food to families in slums and other poor neighbourhoods in and around the capital Kampala. Uganda so far has 53 confirmed cases, of the new coronavirus, and no deaths.

The relief packages include beans and maize flour, and are meant to cushion the vulnerable, unemployed or low income earners from the blow of the lockdown imposed on March 30.

An anti-corruption unit in the president office, the statement said, had conducted a special investigation into the procurement of the relief items.

The investigators discovered the officials were "inflating prices and rejecting lower price offers from various suppliers of maize flour and beans," according to the statement.

Lawyers for the detained officials were not immediately known and the officials themselves could not be reached for comment.

Museveni's government has imposed strict measures to contain the spread of the virus, including shuttering all businesses but the most essential.

Schools are closed, all public gatherings banned and both private and public transportation has been halted.

Corruption is rampant in Uganda but implicated top government officials rarely get successfully prosecuted.

The opposition accuse Museveni, in power since 1986, of being tolerant to corrupt but loyal officials and powerful business tycoons. Officials deny accusations.

Technocrats in the OPM have previously been accused of siphoning funds meant for refugees, accusations that led to some donors to temporarily halt aid.

Uganda hosts more than one million refugees.

(Reporting by Elias Biryabarema Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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