6 January 2013

Cameroon: Malaria Fund Embezzlement: Witness Testifies Against Olanguena Awono

Mpouli Joseph told the Special Criminal Court on Friday that the 2003 mosquito nets contract was a sham.

State Control Inspector, Mpouli Mpouli Joseph has testified that former Public Health Minister, Urbain Olanguena Awono shared in collective responsibility for the embezzlement of Highly Indebted and Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) funds through a fake contract for the supply of insecticide-treated mosquito nets awarded to Vision Sarl. He was testifying on Friday, January 4, 2013 at the Special Criminal Court as prosecution witness after leading an audit mission to the National Malaria Control Programme in 2007. The hearing was part of proceedings pitting the State of Cameroon against former Health Minister and five others for the embezzlement of over FCFA 287 million to the fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

During the examination-in-chief, Mpouli Joseph said that after scrutiny of terms of the award and implementation of the contract awarded to Vision Sarl, irregularities observed included the payment of FCFA 80 million when the mosquito nets had not been delivered. "After payment of an advance of FCFA 16 million in January 2004, Vision Sarl had 60 days to supply, which it failed to do. As contracting authority in the contract and vote holder of the HIPC funds used for the purpose, the Minister of Health failed to terminate the contract but ordered the total payment of FCFA 80 million," he explained. His audit mission placed Urbain Olanguena Awono in collective responsibility with members of the contract's reception committee whose signatures (or those of their representatives) appeared in the report of the reception of the mosquito nets.

When the Presiding Judge, Justice Francis Moukoury signalled cross examination, defence lawyers questioned the validity of a reception report whose signatures were contested by the members as not theirs, especially a signature that appeared twice under different names. "Were the documents in the file accompanying the payment order regular?" questioned Barrister Antoine Mong. "Yes, because the financial comtroller who ensures regularity visaed them," answered Mpouli Joseph.

"Could any member of the reception committee represent or sign by order for another member?" questioned Barrister Nyaabia Joseph. "I will not answer that question," replied Mpouli Joseph. "Is there any evidence that the Minister of Public Health ordered the payment of the fictitious contract?" questioned Olanguena Awono. "The proof is that all documents carry the visa of the Minister as vote holder and these are contained in the annex of the audit report," replied Mpouli Joseph. Other issues raised included the absence of the signature of the service provider, Vision Sarl, on the reception report and the absence of recourse to a graphologist to determine the authenticity of the signatures.

Justice Francis Moukoury adjourned the case to January 11, 2013 for the hearing of yet another prosecution witness.

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