Former Museveni Minister Alleges $5 Million Was Stolen Monthly From Country's National Social Security Fund; Implicates First Family
[FOLLOW THE MONEY]
Part One of A Two-Part Series
In an exclusive interview with The Black Star News and SaharaTV, Uganda's former minister for Gender, Labor and Social Development, Zoe Bakoko Bakoru claims that after she became minister in 2001, she discovered that $5 million (5 billion Ugandan shillings at the time) was being siphoned every month from the country's National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
She claims she later learned the money was being spirited to the Marshall Islands through an associate of President Yoweri Museveni's brother.
When asked who was siphoning the money she said after she did "further investigation" she found out that a business man named Emma Kato, who worked closely with Gen. Salim Saleh, brother of Gen. Museveni "was the one who was doing the deals." Gen. Saleh is also Gen. Museveni's Advisor on Military Affairs.
Ms. Bakoru says Gen. Museveni, after appointing her minister, summoned her for a meeting also attended by the late Attorney General Francis Ayume. Ms. Bakoru says the president told her that his intelligence services had found that money from the country's National Social Security Fund (NSSF) had been stolen to finance the opposition candidates and parties in Uganda's 2001 elections.
She says she was told to "follow it up and investigate" what had happened. Ms. Bakoru says as they left the meeting the late Attorney General Ayume warned her to be careful because "All these things will actually be traced back to the boss" referring to Gen. Museveni. She says she took it to mean that while could re-organize the fund her actions could come back to "bite" her.
Ms. Bakoru says she soon found out about the $5 million being siphoned every month from the remittances by Ugandan workers towards their retirement.
She says the incident that allowed her to launch a forensic audit of the fund, with Gen. Museveni's approval, was when the wife of a man who had retired after contributing to the fund for 50 years received a lump-sum payment of 500,000 shillings, which was about $500.
Ms. Bakoru says after she started cleaning house and suspended the top managers of the NSSF --the Board chair, the corporation secretary and the managing director-- in three months the money "hemorrhage" stopped and monthly remittances to the fund went up by $5 million (5 billion Uganda shillings); from 1.5 billion shillings to 6.5 billion shillings.
At the same time the suspended fund executives lobbied the country's then prime minister Apolo Nsibambi and the then Vice President Gilbert Bukenya to bring pressure on her in the country's Parliament.
Former minister Bakoru says as the fund grew rapidly she started getting "chits" from the Office of the President and from the Office of the First Lady, Janet Museveni, asking for money from the fund.
Ms. Bakoru says Gen. Salim, Gen. Museveni's brother, "invited" her together with former NSSF board chairman, Geoffrey Onegi-Obel to his home on several occasions to ask her for money from the NSSF. (Onegi-Obel was recently arrested in connection with NSSF-related investments; his supporters say he's being scapegoated).
She said Gen. Salim said, "Minister you are the richest minister in this country. If you actually summon anybody they should come running to you." She said Gen. Saleh also said "Because you head the national security fund give me the money."
Ms. Bakoru says after she came to the United States in 2007 to attend a meeting on Women at the United Nations, Uganda's then Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ambassador (Francis) Butagira warned her not to return to Uganda because she would be made the "sacrificial lamb."
The former minister says in her asylum application she informed the U.S. authorities about the corruption at the National Social Security Fund in Uganda.
Ms. Bakoru has been featured on an Oprah Winfrey show segment over the 40 orphans she had adopted in Uganda.
"Follow The Money" was unable to get any comments this evening from the Ugandan embassy in Washington, D.C.
Bakoru was a member of Parliament in Uganda (Woman; Arua District 1996-2001, and Ayivu Constituency 2001-2006). She was the Cabinet Minister incharge of Gender Labor and Social Development from 2001-2006.
See part-two of the SaharaTV interview next week on "Follow The Money." See The Black Star News tomorrow for additional off-camera interview with Ms. Bakoru