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Trafficking

EU donors freeze aid to Uganda over corruption


Bloomberg News

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — More Western donors are freezing aid to Uganda after a scam in which up to $13 million in donor money was embezzled in the office of Uganda’s prime minister. The aid freeze is the kind of action long demanded by transparency campaigners who charge that the money oils a corrupt system.

Uganda has a reputation as a corrupt country, but the latest scandal — brought to light by the country’s auditor general in October — is remarkable for its details: More than $220,000 was spent on gas in four days, millions of dollars were diverted to buy luxury vehicles for top officials, and millions were deposited into individuals’ private accounts.

Because the money was for the rehabilitation of parts of northern Uganda devastated by decades of warlord Joseph Kony‘s brutal insurgency, the scandal has provoked a lasting rage around the country and inspired aid cuts that foreign donors had been reluctant to inflict on this East African country.

Roberto Ridolfi, the head of the European Union delegation to Uganda, said in a statement late Tuesday that the scandal and those before it amounted to “a breach of trust” on the part of Ugandan authorities. Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Britain and Denmark have already cut or cancelled all aid to Uganda over the scam, saying they have lost faith in the government’s capacity to spend money responsibly.

Western donors fund up to 25 percent of Uganda’s budget.

Ridolfi said the EU and its development partners in Uganda “will withhold pending budget support disbursements and any further commitments for an initial period of up to (six) months.”

The donors are giving Uganda until April to pay back all the lost money, investigate the scandal, and take action against all the suspects. But investigations of this nature, when they happen, rarely produce the intended results in Uganda, where corruption charges are often politicized and then dismissed. This year three ministers with close ties to President Yoweri Museveni who faced corruption charges were set free by a judge who said they were scapegoats. The three politicians swiftly returned to their jobs […]

Some campaigners who had long urged donors to act tougher against official waste and graft say the audacity of the latest scandal vindicates their calls for the dismantling of an often-comfortable relationship between the state and its donors. They want foreign aid to be channeled through non-state actors engaged in service delivery and for donors to work directly with contractors in cases where the authorities cannot be trusted with cash.

“For the first time the donors are coming out and putting clear benchmarks and I think it’s a good move,” said Cissy Kagaba of the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda, a watchdog group. “But there are other alternatives they can use to ensure that the money reaches the intended beneficiaries.” Read the full article here.

Bill to Stop Modern Day Slavery under Government Contracts


ACLU

By Devon Chaffee

July 12, 2012

Last month the ACLU released a joint report with Yale Law SchoolVictims of Complacency, that documents the ongoing trafficking, forced labor and abuse of foreign workers hired through U.S. government contracts to work in support of U.S. military and diplomatic missions abroad. Recruited from impoverished villages in countries such as India, Nepal and the Philippines, these men and women – known as Third Country Nationals – are charged exorbitant recruitment fees, lied to about what country they will be taken to and how much they will be paid, and often have no choice but to live and work in unacceptable and unsafe conditions.  These abuses amount to modern day slavery; all on the U.S. tax payers’ dime. Now members of Congress want to act to ensure that federal funds are no longer facilitating such exploitative, abusive and illegal practices.

To help put an end to this trafficking and forced labor under contracts funded by the federal government, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D- CT) and Representative James Lankford (R-OK)) have introduced the End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012. The bill has strong bi-partisan support in both the House and the Senate. This means that even during an election year with heightened partisan tensions in Congress, the bill is one of a handful of measures that has a good chance of becoming law. Recently, the Republican-controlled House adopted the provision—without opposition—as an amendment to a larger defense authorization bill.

The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012 will significantly increase oversight and accountability for employee recruitment under U.S. government contracts preformed abroad.  Currently many large U.S.-based government contractors refuse to take responsibility for the recruitment policies of their subcontractors that hire recruiters which in turn use fraudulent and illegal hiring practices to increase their profits. The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012 works to address this issue by requiring all U.S. government contractors performing a substantial amount of their contract overseas to ensure that their subcontractors and the recruitment agencies they use comply with U.S. anti-trafficking laws, policies and practices. The bill also increases accountability by increasing reporting requirements and extending criminal prohibitions against fraudulent labor practices, including trafficking and forced labor, to contractors and subcontractors working overseas.

The Obama administration has long had a “zero tolerance” policy against human trafficking based on U.S. government contracts, but to date that policy has not been effectively implemented.  As documented in “Victims of Complacency” and numerous other government and non-governmental reports, hundreds of men and women have been trafficked on to U.S. military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan where they have been subjected to forced labor and other abusive treatment by U.S. government contractors and sub-contractors.  Yet, our government has failed to fully investigate these allegations; nor has it prosecuted or taken administrative action against a single contractor for involvement in such abuses. The End Trafficking in Government Contracting Act of 2012 is an important step towards making “zero tolerance” a reality, and to bringing an end to an unacceptable chain of profits based on trafficking, forced labor and taxpayer dollars.

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