Mr Gerald Menya on Wednesday replaced Mr Apollo Kazungu as the commissioner of the Department of Refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister, with government pledging to clean up the whole department following a scandal where millions of shillings meant for refugees was allegedly swindled.
At the handover ceremony held in the Office of the Prime Minister, which Kuzungu did not attend, the minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness, Mr Hilary Onek, urged Mr Menya to oversee a massive shakeup of staff in the department to allay fears of the donors who have threatened to withdraw more funding to the country over the scandal.
“I am saying that as the new commissioner enters office, let the whole system be changed and fill up the gaps that are vacant. There are senior officials here and yet there are those people who joined with attachment to an individual holding wrong offices. Let this be settled as fast as possible,” Mr Onek said.
In January, Mr Onek ordered the interdiction of Mr Kazungu, Mr Walter Omondi (Refugee Desk Officer in Mbarara), Mr John Baptist Sentamu, camp commandant Hoima and Mr Francis Nkwasibwe (a registration officer/assistant commandant in Mbarara, following the scandal that has since drawn the attention of donors, who feared that some of the funds raised at the Solidarity Summit held in Kampala last year may have been swindled.
The major donors US, European Union and UK have since threatened to withdraw aid to refugee programmes in Uganda following the scandal
However, the minister moved to allay fears that the money pledged at the Solidarity Summit has been misused.
“All the money that was collected during the solidarity conference has not been withdrawn. Not even a single coin and the nation should know that what is in n trouble here are the food staffs and other items meant for the refugees,” Mr Onek said.
He also emphasized that government has stepped up biometric verification of new refugee entrants as an accountability measure as well as identifying criminal elements.
The new commissioner, Mr Menya, pledged to front integrity, accountability and value for money as key principles in his work and urged staff in the Department to help him fulfill the values.
Mr Onek also insisted that Mr Kazungu is still a government official until the completion of investigations into his conduct.
Uganda has an open-door policy towards refugees and the country hosts refugees from 12 countries, with majority coming from Somalia, South Sudan and DR Congo. However, the recent events have tarnished the reputation of the country, adding to the already image over rampant corruption in many government departments.