‘The evil ran very deep’ – DR Congo making headway on corruption, says finance inspector


Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Felix Tshisekedi made the fight against corruption a keystone of his 2019 election campaign.

Gallo Images/Lefty Shivambu

  • DR Congo’s chief inspector of finance, Jules
    Alingete Key, says the dire corruption situation in the country is changing.
  • The DRC ranked 170th out of 180 nations in
    Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index.
  • Alingete said they had to deal with people who are
    “born into corruption” and consider corruption and embezzlement
    “normal”.

Kinshasa – The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
has the reputation for being one of the world’s most graft-prone countries,
ranking 170th out of 180 nations in Transparency International’s 2020
Corruption Perception Index.

But the DRC’s recently appointed chief inspector of
finance, Jules Alingete Key, says the situation is changing.

Hundreds of millions of dollars have been netted in
an anti-corruption drive sparked by an overhaul of his team and a recruitment
drive, he told AFP in an interview.

President Felix Tshisekedi, who made the fight
against corruption a keystone of his 2019 election campaign, appointed
Alingete, 58, head of the General Financial Inspectorate (IGF) in July last
year.

Alingete said:

We (found we) had to deal with people who are born into corruption, who grow up immersed in corruption and who consider that corruption and embezzlement are normal.

“The evil ran very deep and very high. We
opted to take a tough line… and our methods have had tangible results,”
he added.

Before, IGF inspectors would go for “small
fry”, but they now focus on a much wider field, “from simple
accountants to managers of public companies and all people who handle public
money, including members of government,” Alingete said.

Income rise

In 2020, government income was less than $400
million on average per month, he said.

A crackdown on false claims for tax exemptions
began in August 2020, and from March 2021 revenue rose to at least $500 million
per month and has sometimes reached $900 million, he said.

Other scams uncovered by the reformed IGF, he said,
were overbilling, backdated commissions, illegal transfer of funds and fake
documents.

“The most spectacular thefts that we have
recorded have been the work of people who are highly placed in state
enterprises, in government,” he said.

He said: 

This area, by the way, is where we have been concentrating most of our efforts. With lower-level officials, it’s $100 000 or $200 000 which is siphoned off, but the higher up you go, it’s millions of dollars.

At first, help from prosecutors “was difficult”,
but “when the facts are there, the justice system gets involved. There
have been many trials and sentences handed down to senior officials”, Key
said.

High-profile figures targeted by IGF investigations
include Governor Atou Matubuana of Kongo Central province.

He was accused in August of “diverting”
17.4 billion Congolese francs ($8.7 million) in government expenditures last
year – spending that his office said was a traditionally accepted benefit for
governors.

Murky reputation

Despite these cases, transparency in the DRC
remains a major problem.

Last month, an NGO called the Congo Research Group
complained of an array of flaws in the DRC’s handling of funds to tackle the
coronavirus pandemic.

Out of $363 million the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) allocated to the DRC to fight the pandemic, “the government has only
been able to publish around 40 documents on the health ministry’s website
justifying the use of just $6 million,” it said.

Separately, Human Rights Watch has also called on
the government to investigate allegations that humanitarian aid for victims of
a volcanic eruption in eastern DRC had been misappropriated by the foundation
of Denise Nyakeru Tshisekedi, the president’s wife.

Alingete said that his unit was still overcoming
problems with staff numbers, and this for now limited its investigative scope.

When he took over, the IGF had “at the
most” 80 inspectors, nearly half of whom were of retirement age, he said.

“Today, we are increasing our capacity to
intervene, and will reach cruising altitude in 2022. We will soon have 200
inspectors.”

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Publish date : 2021-10-14 14:02:11

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