13 January 2013

Cameroon: Fake Contract Payment Scrutinised

Elias Fon Mokom, who served as Finance Controller in the Ministry of Public Health from April 2002 to September 2005 confirmed that the bill presented by Vision Sarl Company for payment at the cost of FCFA 80 million in 2005 was endorsed by the then Public Health Minister, Urbain Olanguena Awono. The signature was accompanied by that of co-accused Onana Belibi who also served as stores accountant in the Minister's cabinet at the time.

Elias Fon Mokom was testifying as third prosecution witness during examination at the Special Criminal Court last Friday, January 11, 2013 in the case pitting the former Minister of Health and five others for embezzlement of over FCFA 287 million meant for the fight against AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis. The witness was questioned on the regularity of his validation of the payment of FCFA 97 million to Vision Sarl for the alleged supply of treated mosquito bed nets to the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP).

The finance controller said he received the payment file accompanied by other relevant documents, checked that the signatures of the Minister and his cabinet's stores accountant corresponded to the specimens in his keeping and forwarded the file to the Paymaster General's Office in the Ministry of Finance for the continuation of the payment procedure.

In cross examination, Urbain Olanguena Awono asked the witness if he knew that by validating the payment file, he was ordering the Paymaster General to pay. "My visa is not equivalent to an order to pay," Elias Fon Mokom responded. Challenging Elias Mokom's statement that only the stores accountant in the Minister's cabinet could sign reception minutes for contracts funded by Highly-indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative funds, the defence lawyers produced other reception minutes of mosquito bed net supply contracts funded by same HIPC funds but carrying the signatures of Mrs. Mbarga, the stores accountant of the NMCP.

When the next prosecution witness was called in by 6:00 pm, the absence of one of the key defence lawyers prompted Justice Francis Moukouri's adjournment to January 29, 2013.

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