Democratic Republic of Congo's Felix Tshisekedi. Picture: REUTERS/Olivia Acland
Democratic Republic of Congo's Felix Tshisekedi. Picture: REUTERS/Olivia Acland

Kinshasa — The Democratic Republic of Congo’s intelligence agency ordered an audit of spending by the interim cabinet that oversaw the country for seven months while President Felix Tshisekedi was locked in talks to appoint a new government.

Former opposition leader Tshisekedi, who assumed office in January, is running the world’s biggest cobalt producer in partnership with his predecessor Joseph Kabila, whose supporters control both chambers of parliament. A power-sharing government was finally announced on Monday after months of secretive negotiations.

In the meantime, a caretaker ministerial team inherited from Kabila was in charge of day-to-day business. Several interim ministers managed two or three portfolios after others gave up their positions to take seats in the National Assembly and Senate.

The head of the National Intelligence Agency, Justin Inzun Kakiak, instructed the general inspectorate of finances to “audit all disbursements of funds from the public treasury to all government ministers since the investiture of the head of state”, in a letter sent on August 17. He also ordered the body to investigate how the money was spent.

The audit is a measure “against fraud and corruption”, Kakiak said by phone from Congo’s capital, Kinshasa. “We want to prevent that.”

Fearsome reputation

While such internal investigations are not  unusual, they rarely become public or lead to sanctions. DRC regularly tops Transparency International’s index of most corrupt nations.

The measure is a welcome initiative from the intelligence agency and general inspectorate, known as the ANR and IGF respectively, if done transparently, according to Jonas Tshiombela, national coordinator of the New Congolese Civil Society, a nongovernmental organisation.

“Generally in our country investigations and audits are launched with pomp but the results are never known to the public,” he said. “If they’re not made public, it’ll be more of the impunity that’s functioned until now.”

Both the ANR and IGF operate under the direct authority of the president, and the intelligence agency especially gained a fearsome reputation under Kabila. Human Rights Watch has described the ANR as an “instrument of political repression” that was used against opposition leaders, human rights activists and judges.

Former chief Kalev Mutond, who is under US and European sanctions, was fired by Tshisekedi in March and replaced with his long-time deputy Kakiak.

$100m credit

A suspected case of mismanagement of funds already surfaced in July in an IGF investigation into a $100m  credit line opened under instruction of interim economy minister Henri Yav Mulang, who also controlled the finance and mines portfolios in recent months.

He informed the DRC’s central bank in May of a government request to make the money available to compensate fuel-distribution companies for losses incurred due to a price cap imposed in 2017.

Yav requested the central bank governor instruct commercial banks to withhold a 15% “haircut” and transfer the amount to an account controlled by a government committee that monitors fuel prices, the IGF report said. More than $14m  was subsequently withdrawn from the account, whose signatories are two senior economy ministry officials, according to the probe.

The haircut did not benefit the state and the account’s signatories have not  explained how the money was used, the report concluded.

Yav’s spokesman declined to comment on the matter when contacted by phone.

Bloomberg