11 February 2013

Cameroon: Witness Alleges Malpractices in AIDS Fund Case

Fake missions, undue service allowances and unjustified fuel allowances were noticed in the management of the National Committee for the Fight Against AIDS (CNLS) during the period 2005 to 2006.

In making these allegations and others before the Special Criminal Court (SCC) last Friday, February 8, 2012, prosecution witness, 42 year-old State Audit Inspector Athanase Waffo Kaptué, attributed the misappropriation to the then Permanent Secretary of CNLS, Dr. Maurice Feuzeu; one of the accused in the case between the State of Cameroon, the former Public Health Minister, Urbain Olanguena Awono and five others. They stand accused of having embezzled FCFA 287 million meant for the fight against AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis.

During the examination-in-chief, Waffo Kaptue said mission allowances amounting to FCFA 7.499.000 were paid to staff of CNLS, Ministry of Public Health and Ministry of Finance for supervision and awareness campaigns in some localities such as Monatele, Mbalmayo and Mbankomo, all in the Centre Region. "We requested justification elements such as mission reports, but the Permanent Secretary declined, saying they were not accounting documents," he explained. Furthermore, the witness alleged that between January and August 2005, Dr. Maurice Feuzeu unjustifiably received monthly allowances of FCFA 400,000, totalling FCFA 3.200.000 as Chief of Section for Sectorial Response at the Central Technical Group of the CNLS before he was officially appointed into the function in August 2005.

When the witness faced the defence at 11 am for cross-examination, Dr. Feuzeu requested to know on what basis the sum of FCFA 400,000 was calculated. The witness replied that he could not answer with certainty for the documents were contained in the annexes of the report that dated back to 2006. In a series of questions, Dr Feuzeu tried to establish that there was no objection from the World Bank on expenditures; that Ernst & Young audit firm endorsed the expenditure on fuel, and the fact that the signing of cheques was the sole prerogative of the Director of the National Sinking Fund.

Dr Feuzeu wondered why his assistant who also earned service allowances was left unperturbed. He cited a February 13, 2003 ministerial decision fixing the service allowances which his predecessor had also earned. The witness abstained from answering several of these questions for poor memory and unavailability of some documents during the audit mission. "If we had all the documents that we had requested during our audit mission, we would have had time to analyse them," he told the court. The head of the college of judges, Mr. Justice Francis Moukouri adjourned the case to February 22 for the hearing of prosecution witnesses.

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