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Case of 15 million in the DRC: unease in the presidency - RFI

2019-09-12T03:44:06.510Z

It is a pavement in the pond of the political return Congolese. For several weeks the so-called "15 million" case of missing dollars


By Florence MoricePatient LigodiPosted on 12-09-2019Modified on 12-09-2019 at 05:28

It is a pavement in the pond of the political return Congolese. For several weeks the so-called "15 million" case of dollars alleged missing from the accounts of the Treasury, the headlines in the DRC and splashes the Congolese presidency. The all-powerful chief of staff of the head of state, Vital Kamerhe, qualified by his critics as "president bis", is among the four personalities that the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) holds for "responsible" in this case . Where is this survey? What do we know so far about the responsibilities of each other? Patient Ligodi and Florence Morice retrace the thread of this affair, which visibly embarrasses the presidency, and reveal its political foundations.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • A month and a half after the start of this so-called "15 million" affair, the president, Felix Tshisekedi, did not make a statement on the subject. A silence that several actors of the civil society denounce. They remind the Head of State of his promise to make the fight against corruption one of the main battlegrounds of his mandate.
  • RFI has confirmed that the prosecutor's office near the Court of Cassation, seized of this case on July 31 by the Inspectorate General of Finance, did indeed open a preliminary investigation. In an interview with Jeune Afrique , Vital Kamerhe, chief of staff of Félix Tshisekedi, who denies any implication and the very existence of a " diversion ", assures him that the case would have been "closed down" by the Inspector General of the Economic Crimes Brigade.
  • Vital Kamerhe has also stopped two other investigations launched by the IGF, including one on all expenditures of ministries since the inauguration of Felix Tshisekedi, initiated at the request of the ANR (the national intelligence agency) for " compelling reasons of state security ".
  • This climate of suspicion of "embezzlement" repeatedly weakens the Congolese head of state. The show of arms provoked by this series of investigations reveals the internal struggles at work within the state apparatus between the defenders of Vital Kamerhe who denounce " a cabal ", and those who reproach him for behaving in " President bis ", to pull the head of state " down ", and push Felix Tshisekedi to break with his ally.
  • Under the pressure of the expectations of the Congolese and the international community, the head of state is facing a " dilemma, " said Treasury Kibangula, an analyst at the GEC (Study Group on Congo).

WHAT'S THE PROBLEM ?

The alleged diversion of US $ 15 million. Public money that, according to the Inspectorate General of Finance, should have been placed in the state coffers at the Central Bank, but was fired last May - at the request of the interim Minister of Economy Henry Yav Mulang - on an account opened in a private bank, Rawbank, on behalf of the Petroleum Products Price Monitoring Committee, chaired by the Minister, and from which this money has since been almost entirely withdrawn in cash. For which motive ? Where did this money go? This is the question posed by the IGF but also justice, which opened a preliminary investigation on the subject.

1- WHAT DOES THE 15 MILLION CORRESPOND?

This 15 million dollars corresponds to 15% of the DRC's sum of $ 100 million borrowed by the DRC and originally intended for several oil distribution companies, in compensation for the freezing of prices. at the pump in 2017, decided by the Congolese government in the face of soaring oil prices. According to the IGF, it is the acting Minister of Economy who makes the request to the Central Bank by mail on May 16. If on the side of the presidency it is said that the principle of this retention described as "haircut" is a "current" practice, several sources also affirm that this money should have been placed on the accounts of the Public Treasury at the Central Bank and not in a private bank. A source close to the investigation also indicates that the $ 15 million "haircut" should have been the subject of an " agreement with the oil companies " and a meeting of the entire Petroleum Price Monitoring Committee, but that this was not the case. The justification for this haircut and the circumstances in which it was decided remain " unclear, " says this interlocutor.

2- WHAT ARE THE FINDINGS OF THE IGF SURVEY?

The General Inspectorate of Finance is a public institution that reports directly to the Head of State but enjoys administrative and financial independence. As such, it is empowered to conduct surveys of the expenditures of public institutions. On 17 July, the IGF, alerted to suspicions of anomalies in this financial compensation case to oil companies, initiated an investigation. The findings of this survey are contained in a nine-page report dated 31 July that RFI has consulted. This survey was conducted under the supervision of Marcellin Bilomba, Senior Adviser to the Head of State for Economic and Financial Affairs.

It turns out that according to the IGF ...

  • ... the $ 15 million should not have been paid into the account of the Petroleum Products Price Monitoring Committee. It is an " irregularity that is not in the interest of the Treasury " and " violates the legal and regulatory provisions governing public finances, " write the authors of the report. They demand " the transfer of the discount to the Treasury " as well as " the audit of the accounts of the Petroleum Products Monitoring Committee ".
  • ... almost all of these 15 million, specifically $ 14,775,000, were withdrawn in several installments between May 27 and June 7. First, four million dollars, then five, 1.5 million, 500,000, three million and finally 750,000. Each time, it is about cash withdrawals.
  • ... the Ministry of the Economy has not made available to investigators " the evidence of use " of these 15 million " haircuts " .
  • .... Rawbank has had " reluctance " to provide it with important elements to trace the destination of the funds, claiming that it can not do so " without a judicial requisition " , these documents " implicating third parties ".
    • Faced with what it qualifies as " obstructions ", the IGF seizes from July 31, 2019 the prosecutor's office of the Court of Cassation to use its powers " more restrictive " to " deepen investigations " on the disappearance alleged $ 15 million.

    3- PERSONALITIES CITED IN THE REPORT OF IGF

    According to the Inspectorate General of Finance, " responsibilities " can be established as follows:

  • Henry Yav Mulang, the acting minister of the economy , is the person who, according to the IGF, signs a letter dated 16 May to the Central Bank demanding that the 15% discount on money for the tankers, and that this money be paid into the account of the Petroleum Monitoring Committee, opened at the Rawbank.
  • Vital Kamerhe, the chief of staff of the head of state Felix Tshisekedi, is the personality that, according to the IGF, as of May 10, 2019, before the letter of the Minister of the Economy, also asks that the haircut money is transferred to a private account, also open at Rawbank. The only difference: according to the IGF, he asks for this transfer to another account, that of the Program Monitoring Committee of the President of the Republic, which he chairs.
    The Central Bank finally pays the money into the account of the Petroleum Products Price Monitoring Committee. Why these contradictory orders? The IGF report is silent on this point.
  • Georges Yamba Ngoie, adviser in charge of financial matters in the Cabinet of the Minister of the Economy, and Célestin Twite Yamwembo, Secretary General for the National Economy, are presented by several sources - including judicial ones - as the two "mandataires" of the account of the Petroleum Price Monitoring Committee. As such, they are "accountants" according to the IGF, the justification of $ 14,775,000 withdrawn for the benefit of this committee and whose trace has not been found. The IGF seems to be particularly interested in the first, Georges Yamba Ngoie, whom she says she invited to a "working session" at the end of July. According to the IGF, he did not respond to this " invitation " .
  • 4- WHAT DO THE PERSONALITIES IN QUESTION?

  • Henry Yav Mulang, now ex-Minister of the Economy, refused to speak on the merits of the case. " I made my report and passed it on to the authorities, " he says.
  • Muke also for several weeks, Vital Kamerhe comes out of his silence in an interview with Jeune Afrique published Sunday, September 8 to try to extinguish the controversy. In this interview, he claims that his name " does not appear in the report " of the IGF. Although it is true that the Inspectorate does not mention it by name, it mentions it twice by designating it by its function, " the Chief of Staff of the Head of State ", page 6 and 8, under the tab " RESPONSIBILITIES ". Moreover, in this interview, he provides no explanation for the mail dated May 10, mentioned in the IGF's report requesting the payment of $ 15 million to the account of the Chair's Program Monitoring Committee. of the Republic he presides.
  • Still in this interview with Jeune Afrique , Vital Kamerhe asserts that " there was no hijacking " and he is proof of the " no action " classification, according to him, of the file by the Inspector General of the Crime Squad. economic. However, it ignores the seizure by the IGF of the prosecutor's office of the Court of Cassation. RFI has obtained confirmation that a preliminary investigation is in progress. (Read below: Where is the survey?). Vital Kamerhe sends the ball back to the Minister of the Economy: " This money has not disappeared and the Minister of the Economy, who has authority over the oil price monitoring committee, can explain it to you ," says -t it.

    This outing of Vital Kamerhe has angered several prominent civil society, including Georges Kapiamba, president of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice. " Contrary to what is supported in Jeune Afrique , the ACAJ confirms that the $ 15 million has indeed been misappropriated . They were taken from the account of the Petroleum Monitoring Committee in six samples, "responded the lawyer on his Twitter account. Georges Kapiamba evokes in support of his assertion " bank notes" and " conclusive evidence from the Rawbank " that he would have " Obtained on the requisition of the Attorney General at the Court of Cassation " . He also claims that Vital Kamerhe's attempt to have the Chairmanship's Monitoring Committee account for it is " already in itself an attempt to embezzle funds ". He calls on the Attorney General to " do everything to ensure that the perpetrators of these facts are arrested, tried and forced to repay to the Treasury ".

  • Questioned by RFI at the time of the release of the report, a source in the communication team of the Presidency challenged the merits of this report on the form as well as the substance. This source believes that the presidential advisor who commissioned it (editor's note, Marcellin Bilomba, Felix Tshisekedi's chief adviser for economic and financial affairs) was " not legitimate " to do so, which is disputed by those around him. this last. On the merits, this interlocutor to the presidency says that the practice of haircut is " common, regular in a somewhat peculiar economy like that of the DRC, " hinting that this money could be used to finance major projects initiated by President.
    Another source for the presidency, however, asserts to RFI that there is no justification for transferring these funds from the state coffers to an account on a private bank to finance the said work.
  • Georges Yamba, the adviser implicated by the IGF, refused to answer RFI without the approval of the Minister of the Economy.
  • 5- WHERE IS THE INQUIRY TO THE CASSATION COURT ON THE 15 MILLION CASE ?

    • Several judicial sources confirm that a preliminary investigation into this case was opened at the level of the Court of Cassation, following its referral by the IGF.
    • As early as August 5, according to a document consulted by RFI, the public prosecutor's office sent a requisition to the Rawbank, which houses the account of the Petroleum Price Monitoring Committee where the $ 15 million was paid, in particular to obtain the list of " Transactions " made to this account since it opened.
    • Several facsimiles consulted by RFI attest to six withdrawals made on behalf of the agents of the account, in May and June, for sums ranging from 775000 to 5 million dollars.
    • A judicial source confirms that the account of the Petroleum Products Price Monitoring Committee, which is problematic in this case, has been " emptied ".
    • The same source confirms that to date, three people have been auditioned, among which, Georges Yamba Ngoie, the adviser in charge of financial matters in the office of the Minister of the Economy. According to our information, he was heard on August 9, on the basis of a " warrant " issued by the prosecution, after evading a first summons. A document consulted by RFI states that a search was conducted the same day at his home.

    6- TWO OTHER SURVEYS OF THE GENERAL INSPECTION OF FINANCES STOPPED BY VITAL KAMERHE

    • In a letter addressed to the Ministry of Finance dated 24 August, and attributed to Vital Kamerhe, the chief of staff of Felix Tshisekedi "enjoins" the Inspector General of Finance " to stop " a second investigation initiated in mid-August by the National Intelligence Agency (ANR), under the authority of the Head of State. She demanded that an audit be carried out on all the expenses of the ministries since the inauguration of the Head of State Felix Tshisekedi in a context of worry and opacity on the management of the public finances these last months, in the absence of government. Reason invoked in the letter: " The Head of State and myself have not authorized any control mission. The General Inspectorate of Finance being under the authority of the Presidency of the Republic, it is thus clear that this famous mission is null and of no effect " .
    • At the time of this letter, the entourage of the Chief of Staff of the Head of State denounces first a " false " , " a malicious campaign " to discredit him. Finally, still in his interview at Jeune Afrique , the cabinet director assumes having asked for the " suspension " of this investigation . " If the ANR needed clarification, it should have asked the Ministry of Finance or Budget. The IGF depends on the presidency and the ANR had nothing to ask him without our knowledge. It's administrative rebellion ! All this boils down to a useless little plot and badly mounted " , justifies the director of cabinet.
    • At the IGF, it is argued that the institution is placed not under the authority of the " presidency " but of the head of state directly, just like the ANR in Congolese law. Moreover, the number 1 of the ANR justified the launching of this survey to the press by invoking " Overriding reasons for state security. "
    • Who says true? The ACAJ, the Congolese association for access to justice, has repeatedly called for the arbitration of the head of state Felix Tshisekedi to resolve this conflict of legitimacy between the ANR and his chief of staff on this issue. subject, which he did not do. Meanwhile, the investigation is halted and its future on the bottom remains uncertain.
    • In early September, Vital Kamerhe " enjoins " the IGF to " stop " a third investigation: control missions targeting five companies including Bralima and Bracongo, following a complaint from the Federation of Enterprises of Congo. The director of cabinet argues that these inspection missions constitute a " violation of the provisions of the law on public finance ", which the IGF denies. The case turns to the legal tussle. The control missions are stopped.

    7- IGF INSPECTORS DENOUNCE OBSTRUCTIONS AND PRESSURES

    • On 31 August, two inspectors from the Inspectorate General of Finance told RFI that they had been arrested . One was detained for a few hours by the police before being released. The other, the Inspector General himself, said he had been interviewed by the services of the Head of State's Special Adviser on Security, François Beya. According to their testimonies, they were interviewed on a CD received at the Ministry of Budget as part of the investigation launched by the IGF at the request of Jean-Hervé Mbelu Biosha, the number 2 of the ANR on spending carried out by the ministries since the inauguration of Felix Tshisekedi as President of the Republic, and stopped by his chief of staff.
    • Several sources at the IGF also denounce the untimely invitations they have received from the security services of the Congolese presidency since the beginning of these investigations. They evoke " a climate of harassment " .
    • In the entourage of the Head of State's Special Adviser on Security, accusations of " harassment " are dismissed and are referred to as " routine meetings " . " We must consider this matter as closed for us. If you want to know more, you need, as the chief of staff says, wait a few days and ask the new Minister of Economy, "said a close associate of the special advisor.
    • Last episode dated Sunday, September 8, the IGF summoned the press for a statement, finally canceled at the last minute for " reasons of coordination with the hierarchy " according to what was explained to the press a manager on the spot. A source close to the case says that the Inspector General of Finance had yet quietly met the day before the Head of State Felix Tshisekedi and that he then would have provided " his support ".

    8- THE SILENCE OF FÉLIX TSHISEKEDI

    • Despite repeated calls from civil society, Felix Tshisekedi has not yet expressed himself clearly and publicly on these cases. He never said whether he was aware of the existence of the two investigations concerning the alleged misappropriation of these public funds or whether he had given his consent.
    • In a communication clip broadcast by the presidency on public television (RTNC) Sunday (September 8th), Félix Tshisekedi simply calls the Congolese and in particular the leaders of the country to " embody a change of mentalities " . " To those who are responsible for the management of public affairs, the first visible sign of change will be your behavior, your competence in the management of the mission entrusted to you by the Congolese people. We are at the exclusive service of Congolese and Congolese . But he makes no explicit reference to the case of 15 million yet in all minds in the DRC.
    • This silence of the Head of State passes badly in the opinion. In the eyes of many personalities in civil society, Felix Tshisekedi misses an opportunity to prove that he really has the will and ability to fight corruption. " Felix Tshisekedi talks about changing mentalities but avoids talking about 15 million. Is not it an old mentality to protect one's loved ones ? The speech of Felix Tshisekedi on the fight against corruption and the embezzlement of public funds must be followed by acts, "lamented the following day Jean-Claude Katende, president of ASADHO, the African Association for the Defense of Human Rights. 'man.
    • A close associate of the Head of State explains that if Felix Tshisekedi keeps silence, it is to preserve " the image of a certain cohesion in his ranks and not to create divisions ".

    9- FÉLIX TSHISEKEDI FACING A "DILEMMA"

    • These cases put Felix Tshisekedi in a delicate position. He is linked to his chief of staff, Vital Kamerhe by a political alliance formed last November, to a month of the presidential election, and even if he has only 16 deputies in the assembly, he weighs on the political chessboard.
      They also reveal the existence of a fracture line in the entourage of the Head of State. On the one hand, those who stand around Vital Kamerhe and denounce a " cabal " orchestrated according to them by Marcellin Bilomba, the chief economic advisor to the head of state. They accuse him of " manipulating " the Inspectorate General of Finance to seek to " discredit " Vital Kamerhe. On the other hand, there are those for whom the suspicions that weigh on Vital Kamerke and his eagerness to oppose any new investigation harm the Head of State. On condition of anonymity during several interviews granted to RFI, they accuse the Chief of Staff of the Head of State of having controlled, through an intermediary, withdrawal operations on the account of Rawbank, and seek to " Pull the head of state down ." They plead for Felix Tshisekedi to pronounce himself unequivocally in favor of the investigations in progress, and to free himself from Vital Kamerhe, an ally of circumstance that has become " too cumbersome " in their eyes, at the risk of shattering the alliance formed between their two parties. Between the two, who says true? It will be up to the courts to decide, but one thing is certain, these cross-accusations reveal a climate of mistrust.
    • Meanwhile, a month and a half after the outbreak of this case, many questions remain unanswered: what will give the investigation to the Court of Cassation? Will the IGF, blocked in its work, obtain from the head of the State, on which it depends, the green light to continue its investigations? Félix Tshisekedi is expected to address these issues, both by the Congolese people and the international community, starting with the IMF, with whom he has initiated discussions on a possible assistance program and expects from him pledges on his ability to fight against corruption.
    • For Trésor Kibangula, an analyst at the GEC, Felix Tshisekedi is facing a " dilemma " : honor his promises and prove his desire for change or preserve his alliance with Vital Kamerhe. This agreement stipulates that in exchange for his withdrawal from the presidential race in 2018 in favor of Felix Tshisekedi, Vital Kamerhe would be the candidate of their coalition in 2023. " It is appropriate," says Trésor Kibangula, " to question the real room for maneuver of the president : can he today punish those around him who deviate from the policy of transparency and fight against corruption that he continues to claim ? This is also the issue for Felix Tshisekedi : more will continue this climate of tension and suspicion of embezzlement, less the image of the one who wants change and fight against corruption will pass in the opinion and with its partners foreigners, including the United States. "

      On the same subject

      DRC: IGF investigations turn to legal tussle with the presidency

      DRC: General Inspectorate of Finance targeted by employers

      DRC: controversy over letter attributed to Vital Kamerhe

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      Source: rfi

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