Massive corruption hits Cameroon

The state was paying huge sums of money as pension to some 9 000 people who did not exist.

It was also discovered that family allowances were paid to people who were not married and had no children, Henri Engoulou, Minister Delegate in the Ministry of the Economy and Finance in charge of the Budget, told a Press conference in Yaounde last week.

He said census agents uncovered rackets in which some civil servants were earning salaries and allowances that were far above their categories.

Engoulou cited one customs officer in Douala whom he said enjoyed a huge salary and allowances after he fabricated his own promotion decision to the rank of a brigadier at Bonamoussadi.

He said many low category civil servants were found to be earning salaries and allowances that are equal to those of ministry permanent secretaries.

According to him, such people are now being paid back in their own coins, because government has suspended their salaries.

The census agents, the minister said, discovered some people continued to receive on a monthly basis, pensions of some 3 000 people that had long died.

Of the 86 000 pensioners that were expected to go through the scanner of the census agents, only 68 000 have been counted, 17 000 have not yet been counted while about 3 700 have been declared dead.

The minister said due to sustained streamlining efforts by government, the monthly wage bill for state employees, has now been reduced from FCFA 35 billion to FCFA 30 billion.

This means that FCFA 5 billion now remains in the state coffers instead of getting into the pockets of unscrupulous civil servants.

He said the census that concerns state employees that get their salaries through micro-finance institutions, is to make sure that people earn only what they are due.

According to him, such efforts will enable government to avoid losing money to fraudsters and racketeers in the public service.

The exercise is expected to help the authorities to arrest fraud and make sure that government is paying correctly only the people that are on its payroll. Given that 95,4 percent of civil servants are paid through the banks, the upcoming exercise will be pegged only on civil servants that get their salaries from 53 micro-finance institutions spread in 59 localities and towns in the country.

It is expected that census agents will remain at the counters of these banks for 45 days; that is, from June 25 to August 10. Civil servants concerned have been called upon to come to their various banks with all documents to justify the amount of money they earn as salaries. These documents include papers to justify family allowances, advancement decisions and identification papers.

The exercise that began early this year is aimed at providing authorities with the correct situation of some 146 000 people that earn over FCFA 30 billion from government coffers on a monthly basis. The census on pensioners was conducted in February and March this year, while those who are paid through pay vouchers were counted from April to May.

The June 25 census, which is the last lap, comes at a crucial moment. Besides, the completion point of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, HIPC-I, Cameroon is expected to show stringent public spending under the IMF-controlled Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRFG) programme.

The census is being executed in the belief that it would lighten government’s financial burden.

That is why the Minister of the Economy and Finance issued a communiqu’ on June 5, warning that any state employee who does not submit himself/herself to the census exercise would have his/her salary suspended immediately.

But observers wonder whether such an exercise can check the gigantic fraud in the public service, given that corrupt civil servants are like birds that have learnt to fly higher than the census agents.

The Post learnt that the census exercise itself is mired in corruption.

It is alleged that some census agents use the exercise to make money by demanding bribes from some civil servants to cover up their fraudulent deeds.

They are said to send their agents to negotiate bribes with those concerned when going to a particular place.

While addressing this concern, Engoulou said they are not perfect for the authorities are still working out strategies through which they can shoot corruption without missing the target.

Asked whether government has the intention to fight corruption by increasing salaries of state employees, Engoulou said it was not possible to do that now, because of budgetary constraints.

He said only after government generated more funds would it be possible to think about increasing salaries. ‘ The Post.

June 2006
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