Hard times ahead for refugees as UNHCR suffers budget cuts

Months after an investigation commissioned by the United Nations (UN) into the operations of its regufee program in Uganda revealed corruption tendencies in the program, the refugee agency is suffering budget cuts.

The UNHCR country representative Joel Boutroue told journalists at the agencies head offices in Kampala the agency is likely to scale down on its support to refugees under the comprehensive refugee response framework.

This year, UNHCR has a spending budget of $130 million, down from last year’s  $200 million, a figure that Boutroue says was also nearly half of the agency’s planned budget.

Last year’s audit conducted by the UNHCR’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) showed inflated bills, fraud and non-compliance with rules among other breaches that caused losses for the refugee agency.

Because of the audit findings, some two donors have already “froze” funding for the agency while some others are reported to be keenly watching to see how the agency responds to the audit findings.

Boutroue however downplayed the possibility that the funders that are holding back their support were influenced by the audit report.

“The audit was about acts of 2016/2017, our funders are aware that positives were done in 2018,” Boutroue said.

He however admitted that more donors were requesting for proof that the agency’s Uganda program is transparent.

OIOS embarked on the audit in the wake of reports of inflated refugee numbers in a classical case of fraud to benefit some officials especially at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

The resultant refugee census revealed that the numbers had been inflated by over 30 percent.