By Tata Mbunwe
As several Cameroonian Ministers answer charges regarding the management of COVID-19 funds worth billions of FCFA, Maurice Kamto, who has been the strongest opposition voice against President Biya’s government, says Biya should first dismiss all Ministers and authorities involved in order to prevent a possible manipulation of evidence.
“May all Government and Administrative officials questioned in the COVID-19 fund mismanagement scandal in our country be discharged from office, in order to answer for their actions before the courts, and avoid possible manipulation of evidence,” Kamto has said.
To the leader of the Cameoon Renaissance Movement, CRM, party, it is “literarily a crime against humanity when funds to cope with a global health emergency are so entertained”.
In a write-up published on his facebook page on May 25, Kamto said government should investigate the management of CHAN funds after the tournament was carried over from 2019 to 2021.
“The inevitable question remains: why is the audit of COVID-19 fund and not the audit of the management of aborted the CAN activities in 2019?
“With impunity maintained and encouraged helping, it is no surprise that practices validated in CAN 2019 fraudulent markets now participate in consistent case alw under the so-called ‘renewal’ regime. The destruction of public wealth through various criminal procedures, including over-billing and exceeding allotted budgets has been standardized.
“Apart from CAN 2019, infrastructure contracts are desired to illustrate these criminal practices, as well as constancy of potential conflicts of interest due to the relationship between contractors and competent policy and Administrative officials,” Kamto stated.
He also lamented the fact that the MTN and Orange Mobile Money accounts of his CRM-led Cameroon Survival Initiative, which aimed at collecting donations for COVID-19, remain blocked by the state till date.
The Cameroon Government is on the verge of losing its credibility in the eyes of the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and other international financial bodies, as pressure continues mounting on Government to audit how the funds have been used so far.
There are widespread claims of embezzlement among Government Ministers. Cameroon’s highest judiciary, the Supreme Court, recently summoned some Ministers to answer questions regarding the management of COVID-19 funds worth about FCFA 180 billion.
“Indeed, the 180 billion FCFA audited were urgently mobilised in response to the continuing humanitarian disaster, threatening to destroy more lives,” says Maurice Kamto in his recent communique.
The state has been largely secretive on how much funds have been amassed from donors for COVID-19 or how much has been spent already.
There is is very little official data on COVID-19 spending in the country. From all indications, this has kept the international community and donors worried.
On April 23, Human Rights Watch published a release asking the IMF to first get an independent audit of COVID-19 spending in Cameroon before granting another loan which the government had already applied for.
This was after the IMF had sought for an audit of COVID-19 funds in the country.
“But unless the audits and investigations are independent and credible, the IMF risks falling for check-the-box exercises,” said Sarah Saadoun, senior business and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.
In his recent publication, Maurice Kamto says Cameroonian Ministers have been hesitant to respond to questions posed by the Supreme Court’s Chamber of Accounts.
“It is deplorable that many members of the government did not respond to the House of Accounts request during this audit, thus throwing a legitimate suspicion on the terms of awarding many contracts under this authority,” Kamto said.
The CRM leader has demanded that: a truly independent audit be carried out on embezzlement scandals surrounding the management of COVID-19 funds; all Ministers being questioned for mismanagement should be dismissed from office while they answer charges; and that the Cameroon Chamber of Accounts and other state institutions responsible for controlling management of state funds be granted power to bring irregularities directly to the court.