TO BE VERIFIED: Refugees at the Bidibidi Reception Centre in Yumbe, Northern Uganda.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is set to start the verification program of people seeking for asylum in Uganda after misappropriation of refugee funds, aid relief and falsification of refugee numbers.

The data verification exercise is scheduled to start in March and end in September, with the aid of biometric machines that have been tried in over 45 countries registering over 4.4 million refugees.

Introducing biometric checks at food distribution sites among other departments, nation-wide re-enrolment and verification process will help Ugandan government in fixing discrepancies in refugee data.

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According to Assistant High Commissioner for Operations in UNHCR, George Okoth Oboth, UNHCR’s independent Inspector General’s Office is in Uganda  carrying out investigations over several serious allegations received in 2017 on fuel embezzlement, one allegation of sexual exploitation and abuse, irregular tendering of water trucking, and fraud in procurement and food distribution.

Despite the initiation of a probe in January by Ugandan government over alleged corruption and grave misconduct by government officials, UNHCR said they have zero tolerance for misconduct, abuse and exploitation.

He however said the agency’s investigations aim at supporting the probe that was commissioned in January by the office of the Prime Minister.

Mr. Okoth noted that UNHCR is strengthening its monitoring and oversight to prevent a reoccurrence of the events, adding that they will deploy of more senior staff to help put in place additional safeguards.

Last month government suspended the Commissioner of Refugees Apollo Kazungu and three other senior staff from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) over misappropriation of refugee funds and aid relief in 2017.