Covidgate: Audit Report corroborates Massive Misappropriation and Embezzlement of Funds by Ministers

By Augustine Nyuykongi

An audit report on the accountability of the FCFA180 Billion Special funds allocated for the fight against Covid-19 in Cameroon has been published by the Audit Bench set up to investigate into possible situations of financial malpractices by stakeholders.

Startling revelations on the audit report published on November 16, 2021, confirms many Government officials were involved in serious financial crimes in the handling of the funds. 

The 171-page document has analyzed several incidents of malpractice from Ministers such as overbilling of equipment and services, illegal sale of equipment by Ministers, and more. 

Test purchases overbilled by more than XAF15.3 billion

The most outstanding financial malpractice exposed by the audit report was an inexplicable overbilling of tests, which amounted to more than 15 billion FCFA. According to the audit report,  the company in charge of importing 1,400,000 tests was inexperienced and overbilled the sum of CFAF 15,374,000,000 in 2020, with the approval of the Public Health Ministry officials. 

The audit reports also revealed that according to documents from the Bank of Central African States (Beac), MODA  HOLDING HONG KONG, which is controlled by Cameroonian businessman Mohamadou Dabo, collected payments even though they were not the ones to supply tests. The report also implicates Public Health Minister Dr. Manaouda Malachie. It says he knew about the financial crime, though his signature wasn’t necessarily in any of the fraudulent documents.

Drugs authorized to be produced, clandestinely imported

In the audit report, it is said that the Institute of Medical Research and Studies of Medicinal Plants, IMPM had negotiated for the local production of Covid-19 drugs. Clandestinely though, it had also placed an order for these drugs, hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin tablets from India. 

Late in July 2020, the IMPM is said to have received the drugs from India already packaged. The IMPM upon reception is believed to have repackaged the drugs with made-in Cameroon tags, an activity costing at least 9 Million FCFA. 

Covid-19 screening tests sold by Minister

In the audit report also, the Ministry of Territorial Administration is involved in a non-transparent sale of  15,000 COVID-19 rapid screening tests. A sum of 288 Million is said to have been transferred into an ad hoc account of the Territorial Administration Ministry, with the identity of the holder, anonymous to the audit bench. Although the sum was paid in, it was not canceled from the Ministry of Health’s Bank Ledger. This led to a conclusion from the audit bench that “if the transfer is not  recorded in the Ministry of Public Health’s bank  ledger, there is a risk  that  the sum of CFAF  288,000,000 will be  appropriated by private  individuals…”

Over 536 Million FCFA Worth of Drugs Unaccounted for

The report from the audit bench informed that at least 536 million FCFA worth of drugs could not be accounted for by the Ministry of Public Health. Officials were completely oblivious to where the drugs were stored, or if there were any. 

 “Given these  elements, and in particular the inability of Public Health Ministry officials to identify the storage  location, the Audit Bench  considers it highly likely  that either these medicines were diverted to private individuals or that they were delivered fictitiously.” The report stated.

The 171-page documents equally revealed that a host of purchases of drugs and other equipment worth several billion, which were made but never registered under the Government spending. This scenario made it easy for these goods to be misappropriated. 

There were also conflicts of interest in the attribution of some contracts. “The Audit Bench established that three companies (ETS ABOA PERSPECTIVE, ETS ABS MOTORS, and PHASE ENGENEEERING CAMEROON SA), which were awarded 6 contracts, for a total amount of 1,620,834,039, FCFA are managed by Mr. Aboubakar Sidiki Diaby, elder brother to Mr. Ousman Diaby, President of the working group set up by the Minister of Public Health to formulate a technical opinion on contracts awarded,” the report discloses. 

The report equally revealed a 1.2 Billion FCFA full payment of services, though they were never completed. The money paid out was for the construction of a health post in Nsimalen-Yaoundé international airport,  the rehabilitation of the neurology wing of the Yaoundé Central Hospital (lot 2), and the rehabilitation/extension of the Lagarde wing of the Yaoundé Central Hospital.

Source: Investir au Cameroun

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