#COVID19: Cameroon’s Justice Minister Asks Presidency For Evidence To Prosecute Fund Embezzlers

Internal tussle over the audit of COVID-19 funds from IMF continues in Cameroon as Justice Minister asks for prosecution evidence

Laurent Esso, Cameroon’s Minister of Justice, has asked the Presidency to furnish him with documents containing evidence of embezzlement of funds intended for COVID-19 management in the country.

The demand follows a letter from Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, the Secretary-General at the Presidency to the Minister of Justice, saying President Paul Biya had instructed him to order the Minister of Justice to prosecute all those suspected to have embezzled COVID-19 funds.

On April 6,  Ngoh Ngoh had addressed a letter to Esso in which he declared inter alia: “In enclosing herewith a thermo-copy of the report of the Audit Bench of the Supreme Court in relation to the subject indicated (embezzlement of Covid-19 funds – Editor), I have the honour to forward to you the high directives of the Head of State prescribing the opening of a judicial investigation against the authors, co-authors and accomplices to cases of financial improprieties.”

However, the said correspondence did not include any documents containing evidence of embezzlement against the alleged embezzlers nor the names of the said embezzlers.

The Minister of Justice last week wrote back to the Secretary-General at the Presidency demanding that he “forward the documents of the investigations of the high jurisdiction that were not attached to your correspondence.”

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cameroon has received two emergency loans totalling $382 million from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fight the pandemic, including its negative effects on the national economy.

The Cameroon authorities also created a national COVID-19 solidarity fund to the tune of 180 billion FCFA for the same purpose.

All these funds were distributed to various ministerial departments involved in the COVID-19 fight. However, there is very little to show to justify the huge sums of money allegedly spent by the ministries that received the allocations.

Efforts to seek accountability following demands by the IMF for an audit of the funds before any further funds can be made available have resulted in confusion as to which national entity would carry out the audit.

The Supreme State Audit and the Audit Bench of the Supreme Court have been differently selected by two opposing poles of government namely the Presidency and the Prime Minister’s Office to carry out the audit with each pole claiming the right to do the auditing.

“It would appear the confusion that this fight between powers in the presidency and the prime minister’s office has brought about is a deliberate attempt to muddy the waters and shield those who have stolen billions intended to be used in saving the lives of Cameroonians and the country’s flagging economy.”

“This umpteenth thievery should not be allowed to pass,” fumes, Essosse Eugene a political activist in Douala, the country’s economic capital.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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