DOUALA, CAMEROON – Cameroon government auditors have alleged ministries and state bodies misappropriated and mismanaged funds from a $338 million national coronavirus response plan, according to a purported leaked summary of their report shared widely online on Friday.
The government and presidential administration did not respond to requests for comment on the report. A justice ministry representative referred queries to the supreme court, which has authority over the auditing body. Supreme court officials did not respond to requests for comment.
The International Monetary Fund has given $382 million in emergency funds to Cameroon since the start of the pandemic and said it was important for the authorities to keep track of companies contracted as part of its COVID-19 response.
An audit was commissioned by President Paul Biya into the use of COVID-19 funds, but no findings have yet been made public.
Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the 22-page report purportedly by the supreme court’s audit bench, which alleged government bodies awarded contracts on questionable grounds, falsified accounts, and caused losses of 15 billion CFA francs ($28 million)to the state by choosing a more expensive provider of COVID-19 tests, among other allegations.
The leaked report focused primarily on the activities of the ministry of health and the ministry of scientific research and innovation.
The ministry of health did not respond to requests for comment.
The ministry of scientific research and innovation released a statement denying the allegations in the report, including that one of the bodies under its authority repackaged imported medication to suggest it had been produced locally.
Minister Madeleine Tchuinte “neither received nor managed any financial resources under the government’s coronavirus response,” the statement said.
In April, watchdog Human Rights Watch called on the IMF to push Cameroon to publish the results of the audit by making it a condition of a new loan package.
“The IMF should take seriously the opportunity a new multi-year loan program presents to press for deep-seated governance reforms that will improve Cameroon’s transparency and accountability during this pandemic and beyond,” it said. ($1 = 533.2500 CFA francs) (Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Daniel Wallis)