Some ministers and high-ranking personnel in Cameroon, especially those at the Ministry of Public Health, are in hot water over billions loaned from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to combat Covid-19.
Weeks back, the Secretary General at the Presidency, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh ordered that money be made available for the audit of funds meant for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many then had expressed joy, with some citing the Minister of Health’s inability to justify ‘missing’ bags of rice donated to the country as an indicator that officials were pilfering into health funds.
However, no immediate action was taken. Last week, Human Rights Watch picked the relay, noting that funds borrowed from the International Monetary Fund to fight the pandemic had not been properly accounted for.
With President Biya ordering an investigation into the use of the funds, many believe heads will roll in the not too distant future.
Going by documents believed to contain official purchase price listings, it is safe to say state officials have been making huge cuts from the money meant to keep the virus at bay.
Among these documents is an inventory commissioned by the now late Secretary of State at the Ministry of Public Health in charge of pandemics and epidemics, Alim Hayatou.
The document signed by the official shortly before his demise containeds inflated and unrealistic prices with some equipment accorded prices up to 10 times more than their original costs.
The surgical mask for instance which costs 100FCFA on the streets of Yaoundé is said to cost 1,000FCFA officially, a figure which at the worst could still be used to purchase many more masks.
331,826,750 FCFA was spent for the purchase of hundreds of masks and other protective gear.
Origin of funds
With the rising COVID-19 figures and rapid spread of the pandemic, Health Minister Dr Manaouda Malachie in April 2020 said a containment plan was being set up to the tune of $105 million (close to 60 Billion FCFA). Several other business persons, groups and individuals supported the fund with as much as they could, as well as protective gear including masks and hand sanitizers.
In May 2020, the International Monetary Fund, IMF made available the sum of $256 million (over 140 billion FCFA) to boost the campaign against COVID-19. It termed the finance an emergency loan.
As if the IMF’s involvement was not enough, in October 2020 it made available another $156 million (nearly 86 billion FCFA). The sum, it explained, was to assist government in financing the ailing health system as well as provide aid to families and communities affected by the pandemic.
Rights groups, NGOs and even opposition political parties had called in government and the Ministry of Public Health to make available knowledge of usage of the funds public, to no avail.
The recent investigations opened, many believe, is thanks to pressure from international bodies, and most likely the IMF.
“I have the honour to pass on the high instructions of the Head of State prescribing the opening of judicial investigation against authors, co-authors and accomplices of cases of the financial embezzlement of the said funds,” Secretary Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh had stated in a release.
Top on the list of those expected to render account for said funds is the Minister of Public Health, Dr Manaouda Malachie as well as other ministers who were given funds facilitate their ministries’ fight against the pandemic.
Mimi Mefo Info