We, the Board of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF), are firmly committed to supporting a Uganda where citizens are empowered to engage in democratic governance and where the state upholds citizens' rights. We have been doing this over many years, through effective collaboration with civil society organisations (CSOs) and state institutions. This experience has given us confidence that strong partnerships can make a difference for a deepened democracy in Uganda.The DGF's objective is to strengthen democratisation, improve the protection of human rights, enhance access to justice, promote peaceful co-existence and improve voice and accountability in Uganda. These aims also align directly with the provisions of the Government of Uganda's Second National Development Plan (NDP II).
Since 2011, the DGF has implemented dozens of projects in the fields of human rights promotion and protection, democratic accountability and access to justice all over the country. This work, undertaken by a set of dedicated, skilled and courageous partners, is making a real difference to the lives of many thousands of Ugandans.
The DGF has contributed to increased confidence of Ugandan citizens to demand the implementation of constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms, through human rights awareness campaigns which have reached over 10 million people. In addition, more than 750,000 women, men, girls and boys have experienced improved access to justice through legal aid services. The DGF support has helped improve the capacity of the Parliament and other key state institutions. The DGF has supported over 10,000 victims of conflict, and has enabled the formation of hundreds of human rights clubs in schools. We have also helped to ensure that taxes worth billions of shillings, which were used incorrectly, have been recovered by Ugandan authorities.
Of course, we cannot ignore that the DGF has also had its challenges, including instances of corruption. Following our routine audits of DGF-supported projects in 2016 and 2017, we uncovered irregularities in the use of funds by a minority of our partner organisations. Based on the findings in a subsequent forensic audit report and in light of the zero-tolerance principle, the DGF Board decided to terminate partnership agreements with four existing organisations and not to enter into new partnerships with two partners. All affected organisations have been informed of these decisions in writing and they have been asked to refund the misused funds.
At the same time, let us be clear: the overwhelming majority of DGF partners – state and non-state actors alike – implement their projects with integrity, professionalism and accountability. We are proud to partner with them and salute the incredible work they do to improve the lives of Ugandans.
There have also been reports in the media about allegations of misconduct among staff working for the DGF. Development Partners supporting the DGF also take such allegations extremely seriously. Those of us responsible for overseeing the implementation of funding mechanisms in Uganda need to ensure that everyone lives up to the same standards we expect of the organisations we support. In recent months, we have investigated allegations of misconduct among some DGF staff members and, based on the findings of those investigations, we have taken disciplinary actions.
As DGF Development Partners, who want to contribute to the fight against corruption in Uganda, we need to be ready to walk the talk when allegations are brought against the DGF. No one working for the DGF can be associated with corruption. If any member of the public comes across any kind of misconduct by people working for the DGF, we encourage everyone to bring it to our attention, for instance by using the DGF whistleblower hotline.
We are clear that DGF money must be used as agreed, so that it creates the most positive impact possible for Ugandan citizens. We are also accountable to our taxpayers and need to be sure the funds are used for the intended purpose. We have learned from recent events, and are in the process of further refining our systems to make them as robust as possible, also taking the views from partners into account.
We know that corruption is a serious problem affecting public life in Uganda. We expect civil society and government leaders to stand up and speak out against malpractices and corruption and we stand ready to work jointly with all actors in this important fight.
The media, too, has a crucial role to play in exposing corruption. Recently, we have seen a number of media reports about corruption linked to DGF partnerships. While some information reported has been accurate, other news stories have contained defamatory and false information. As DGF Development Partners, we strongly distance ourselves from such unwarranted and unsubstantiated allegations. We encourage all news outlets to play their role in a democratic society and present news in an objective, truthful and ethical way.
The DGF is based on partnerships and we will continue the efforts to jointly work for a peaceful and democratic Uganda. We are ready to talk to both existing and potential partners on how the relationship can be strengthened and mutually enforcing. That dialogue has already started and will be intensified. We look forward to a continued partnership with professional and efficient CSOs and state institutions, as we strive together to further Uganda's democratic development.
The Board Members of the DGF: The Heads of Mission of Austria, Denmark, the European Union, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.