Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

Cameroon: Mosquito Bed Net Contract Scam

Urbain Olanguena Awono and the co-accused allegedly paid over FCFA 97 million to a company that failed to deliver.

On September 15, 2003, the Ministry of Public Health signed a contract with Vision Sarl for the supply of long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito bed nets worth FCFA 80 million. The mosquito nets were destined for the Districts of Makari and Mada in the Far North Region.

On January 13, 2004, Vision Sarl received an advance sum of FCFA 16 million. The contract was entirely paid in 2005 according to payment order No P027225 to the tune of FCFA 80 million, totalling FCFA 97 million. The sum was wired to Vision Sarl's bank account managed by its CEO, Soue Mbella Yves Rodrigues. The contract for the acquisition of the said mosquito nets for the National Malaria Control Programme was sponsored with funds from the Highly-indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. HIPC funds were classified as State funds and subject to the Public Contracts Code.

An audit mission from the Supreme State Control that was deployed to the NMCP in 2007 found out that the mosquito nets were not received by the programme but effective reception report had been signed to the effect. Furthermore, Vision Sarl did not respect the 60-day timeframe it had to supply and did not receive a notification of termination of contract from the contracting officer who was the Minister of Public Health.

By physical examination of documents, especially the report of the reception, the auditors established that Okala Raphael (Permanent Secretary of the NMCP), Onana Belibi Timothée (stores accountant in the Public Health Minister's cabinet), Abakar Alhadji (President of the Technical Unit for the Programming and Follow-up of the Budget of the Ministry of Health), Mbassi Laurent (Head of the Provincial Unit for the Fight Against Malaria) and Dr Sadou (District Medical Head for Kousseri) or their representatives signed the reception report.

A collective responsibility for the embezzlement of the FCFA 97 million was placed on the members. Olanguena Awono's responsibility was established under Circular No. 04/001/MINFI/P which contains instructions on the implementation and control of the execution of the State Budget and subsidised organisations for the 2004 fiscal year. Chapter 2 states that vote holders, technical service heads, and reception committee members must before giving their endorsement, ensure that the work executed comply with norms. It charges pecuniary and penal responsibility in case of reception of work not conforming to standards, partially executed or not executed.

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