Cameroon: IMF awaits new audit on Covid-19 fund management

By Maureen Songne
Posted on Friday, 18 March 2022 18:45

A Covid-19 vaccination centre at Yaoundé’s National Museum, 29 November 2021. © Daniel Beloumou Olomo / AFP

The IMF is not impressed with the embezzlement of funds meant for fighting Covid-19. Cameroon magistrates have uncovered a litany of corruption in their latest audit.

On 16 November 2021, the Chambre des Comptes du Cameroun carried out an audit to investigate how the Special National Solidarity Fund intended to fight against the coronavirus was being used.

Its report confirmed suspicions of embezzlement that have been reported since early 2021. In its conclusion, the Chamber made 30 recommendations, decided to open 14 proceedings into mismanagement and transmitted 12 cases – likely to be classified as criminal- to the Ministry of Justice.

In its latest Cameroon report, the IMF – which called for an independent audit to examine the management of these funds before any new economic assistance programme for the country could be concluded – highlights three problematic areas.

Firstly, the absence of centralised traceability for the Special Fund’s commitments and payments. Secondly, the lack of transparency regarding the conditions for awarding special contracts, which is open to abuse. Finally, the difficulty for auditors to collect reliable accounting information.

Better governance

In light of the Chamber of Accounts’ work, the IMF welcomed “the authorities’ commitment to strengthening governance, transparency and the fight against corruption” in a recent study. Further work to be done, such as drafting an implementation report about the 2021 Covid-19 expenditure, will be published by June 2022.

In consultation with IMF staff, the Cameroonian authorities will also have to establish “a diagnosis of governance vulnerabilities, including corruption.” This will have to evaluate: fiscal governance, financial sector supervision, market regulation, respect for the law, the fight against money laundering and terrorism financing. This study is due to be published in June 2023.

Overcharging by €23m

The magistrates in charge of auditing the Chamber of Accounts discovered that Mediline Medical Cameroon SA (MMC SA) benefited from a quasi-monopoly when it came to supplying equipment. The same company is suspected of overcharging by 15.3bn CFA francs (€23.3m) for Covid-19 detection tests.

A stock of medicines worth 536m CFA francs has disappeared from the registers, as no information regarding the management of these medicines has been made available to the Chamber of Accounts. “These medicines were not recorded by the accountant and no one at the Ministry of Health was able to say where they were stored,” the document reveals.

The Audit Chamber also concluded that a sum of 288m CFA francs set aside to purchase 15,000 rapid Covid-19 tests may have been “privately appropriated”, given the “opacity” of the executive charged with making the transaction.

The audit, an unfinished version of which had already “leaked” in May 2021, reveals other cases of favouritism, conflicts of interest and numerous breaches of regulations that took place in the management of funds intended to fight against Covid-19.

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