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DIAGNOSIS OF THE SYSTEMIC PROBLEM OF EMBEZZLEMENTS

Note: This article was written in reaction to the Minister of Post and Telecommunication who received FCFA 770 Millions in cash from the Cameroon National Treasury.

 

It is perplexing  to think that a Ministry in Cameroon does not have a clear process by which money could be transferred from the Public treasury to a Ministry’s Bank account. Giving someone, --be it a minister or anyone else-- such a huge sum of cash money –FCFA 770 M —is really an invitation to embezzlements. But it is also an unnecessary invitation to buglers which puts the lives of the Minister and his family at risk.

 

People, you see pervasive embezzlement is a symptom of a lack of understanding of how Government should operate. Government money should never be given in liquidity to any Government official. Government money coming out of the Public Treasury must only be transferred from one bank account to another or by a signed check to another Government institution, because checks and money transfer will leave an audit trail that could be used for auditing, accountability and traceability.

The incident reported here could be the tree that hides the forest. Our Government must extend this inquiry to all the parties involved, by asking the tough questions.

1-    Who in the Ministry of Finance authorized the transaction ? How did he go about authorizing it ? Did he follow all the processes in place for such an approval ? This person must also be interrogated by the Special Criminal Court.

Our Government, through the National Assembly  must order a complete review the process by which money is authorized by the Ministry of Finance and released from the Public Treasury. The National Assembly should investigate this and pass a law that clearly defines and spells out the complete process on how money leaves the Public treasury. The people’s money should never leave the Public treasury in liquidity form. It must only be a in the form of a Bank transfer to another Ministry’s account and not a private account. And the process must leave an a log and audit trails that are preserved and shared with other responsible Agencies. The Finance department of the receiving Ministry must only issue checks to satisfy the Ministry’s expenses and never pay anything in cash. Money wiring and checks have the unique advantage that they leave a log and audit trails that can be used to trace the money. Cash does not leave any money trail, and hence no accountability.

2-    Who at the Treasury gave this cash money to the Minister ? Was he authorized to do so ? Did he follow all the processes in place before doing so ? This person must also be interrogated by the Special Criminal court. Our laws must dictate that the people’s money in the Public treasury must never leave the treasury in cash form. It must only be wired from one Bank account to another, and the receiving Bank account can’t not be a personal Bank account. In some limited cases, the Public treasury can issue a check. At the end of the transaction, a computer generated audit trail must be generated and shared with all competent Agencies.

3-    Who at the Presidency approved this money to the Minister of Finance on behalf of this Ministry, and for what purpose ? Was the process in place followed ? Was the Pri-Minister informed ? Which other Government authorities were privy of this information ? Where they informed ?

Any approval of Money by the Ministry of Finance must have a computer generated audit trial that must be shared with other competent Agencies. The Ministry of Finance, on weekly or a monthly basis must publish a list of all the financial disbursements, indicating the amount, the recipient and the purpose of the money. And the Ministry of Finance must make this information known to the public either through a website or through the National news Media. This is called transparency in managing the people’s money.

 

People, we must all understand that Government is a very consequential institution for the lives of our people and our country. It takes a lot of hard work to get Government to work right. It is 24/7/365 overtime job to build and run a modern Government with checks and balances, and accountability at the core. A Government is only as good as the operational mechanisms that it defines, designs and implements.

Corruption and embezzlements are consequences of a poorly and outdated system of Government.  If someone –be it a Minister or even a President-- can just walk to the Public treasury of our country and walk away with FCFA 770 Millions of the people’s money in cash, then we must pause for a hard reflection. In this 21st Century when we have computers, we have banks equipped with incredible mechanisms of money transfer, with an exhaustive log trail for traceability and accountability, a  Minister of our country would still go to the treasury and carry out cash money. Really ?

Human beings are not intrinsically bad. But human beings are fallible --even with the right intentions-- , and when given the chance, the opportunity and the motive, can be tempted to do stupid and unlawful things. That is why our Government operational processes must be construed with built-in intelligence, checks and balances and accountability clauses, in such a way that compels the human being to be compliant and do right by the law and the society.

The built in checks and balances of the system and the accountability clause are the core principles that compels human beings to do right by society. Our system of Government should not rely on the judgment of individuals, but rather on well construed operational mechanisms and processes for the public official to follow. Your job as a Minister is not to redefine the processes but to follow and execute them to the letter. And anyone, who intentionally –or not-- violates the process, must be held accountable.

The presumption of innocence granted, and to be legally fair, this Minister, as reckless as he may appear, can be given the benefit of the doubt if the poorly design processes in place allowed him to do what he did. However, this systemic deficiency and failure must be an opportunity to close the weaknesses of the system and prevent this from ever happening again. It must be a teachable moment for our Government.

I have criticized the “Operation Epervier” for being a reactive institution in the sense that it only catches people after they have stolen huge sums of money. We need a proactive system in the fight against embezzlements, a system that detects and prevents embezzlements from happening in the first place. And this can be achieved through –investigative-- hearings at the National Assembly, televised on Public television. Apparently the Government has chosen the Special Criminal Court to conduct these hearings, which is acceptable even though, a court should only be involved when there is an actual probable cause of wrong doing, which is then followed by indictment when the charges are read. It is nevertheless a slight improvement.

 

Our laws must dictate that the people’s money in the Public treasury must never leave the treasury in cash form. It must only be wired from one Bank account to another, and the receiving Bank account can’t not be a personal Bank account. In some limited cases, the Public treasury can issue a check. At the end of the transaction, a computer generated audit trail must be generated and shared with all competent Agencies.” –ANST—

“The Ministry of Finance, on weekly or a monthly basis must publish a list of all the financial disbursements, indicating the amount, the recipient and the purpose of the money. And the Ministry of Finance must make this information known to the public either through a website or through the National news Media. This is called transparency in managing the people’s money.” –ANST—

 

“The built in checks and balances of the system and the accountability clause are the core principles that compels human beings to do right by society.” –ANST--

 

 

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