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Cameroon: Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute questioned over ‘Covidgate’

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Friday, 18 June 2021 18:15

Cameroon’s prime minister Joseph Dion Ngute. MABOUP

Cameroon’s prime minister Joseph Dion Ngute faced questions over mismanagement of Covid-19 funds.

Cameroon’s prime minister Joseph Dion Ngute was interviewed on 12 June at his Yaoundé residence by investigators of the Special Criminal Court, according to our sources. For the sake of confidentiality, the prosecution agreed to meet with the Cameroonian prime minister at the weekend and outside his office.

Although nothing has emerged from this hearing, it appears it was devoted to the special public contracts that were allocated 180bn CFA francs (€274.4m) of public funds, which were intended to fight against Covid-19. The Audit Chamber’s report, which was leaked in mid-May, does not implicate Ngute by name, but he had been cited by Malachie Manaouda, Cameroon’s health minister in connection with the case.

Conflict of interest

During his hearing on 19 May, Manaouda stated that he had received orders from the head of government to only award special contracts – without a call for tenders – to businessman Mohamadou Dabo’s company.

The company Mediline Medical Cameroon (MMC), in which Dabo is a shareholder through Moda Corporation, received an order worth 24.5bn CFA francs, or 89% of the market share. In comparison, only 10% was granted to two other local service providers who, according to the Chamber’s magistrates, had a greater competitive advantage.

This quasi-monopoly has fed suspicions of conflict of interest, although this has been strongly contested by Ngute’s entourage, which asserts that the prime minister does not know Dabo.

Moreover, according to the same sources, the presidency made the decision to award public contracts via an emergency procedure after a meeting between Cameroon’s President Paul Biya and Bok-Ryeol Rhyou, the South Korean ambassador, in June 2020. The latter had come to offer her country’s support to Cameroon in the face of the pandemic.

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