By Peter Ssebulime
Kampala: ActionAid International Uganda has finally responded to government’s demand that they submit their financial records with the Financial Intelligence Authority (FIA) before their license to operate in Uganda can be renewed,
In their statement released Friday, they state thus
“ActionAid International Uganda understands that it is listed among 13 non-governmental organizations in a letter from the government’s Financial Intelligence Authority demanding that Equity Bank releases the NGOs’ bank records and financial transactions for review.
The social justice organization has been unable to verify the authenticity of the letter which was widely circulated on social media. ActionAid International Uganda has not been contacted directly by the Financial Intelligence Authority.”
Xavier Ejoyi, country director of ActionAid International Uganda, said:
“ActionAid International Uganda respects the mandate of the Financial Intelligence Authority to investigate and we cooperate fully with any requests for information.
However, we are concerned that this latest demand for financial information is part of a worrying the trend in which NGOs, particularly those working on governance, democracy and accountability, are being targeted through baseless investigations that are neither fair nor transparent.
He added that “ActionAid International Uganda has a rigorous financial management system and goes through pre-grant assessment, periodic reviews, reporting and annual audits in line with national and international policies regulating NGOs.
We remain committed to empowering Ugandans living in extreme poverty, fighting injustice, ending sexual and gender-based violence, promoting participation in decision-making and harnessing the
entrepreneurial potential of young people. In the current climate of shrinking political space and attacks on human rights defenders, we are determined to continue our vital work.”
In September 2017, Uganda Police raided ActionAid Uganda’s offices and those of three partner NGOs. They confiscated personal phones, laptops and institutional documents in search of evidence of alleged money laundering.
Simultaneously, the Bank of Uganda and Financial Intelligence Authority froze AAIU’s bank accounts for three months. Two years on, the police and state agencies have neither released an investigation report nor returned confiscated property, despite written requests for them to do so. The Bank of Uganda has confirmed in writing that ActionAid has been cleared of the allegations, but the case remains open.
In 2017, the government asked 22 other Non-governmental organizations to submit bank statements, activity reports and several other documents covering six years of operations.
In October 2018, police questioned an artist AAIU hired to paint its perimeter wall, confiscating his equipment but later returned his drawings, based on claims of inciting the public against the police. In February this year, police issued a letter to a number of civil society organizations in which they claimed to be developing a database of NGOs. One of the questions they asked was whether the organizations were involved in elections or not.