Human Rights Watch said The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Executive Board should ensure that a three-year loan sought by Cameroon is used to meet its human rights obligations and not lost to corruption, today. It should require the government to make its spending fully transparent, conduct a comprehensive independent audit of its Covid-19 spending to date, and hold anyone responsible for corruption accountable. “The IMF Board is voting on its third loan to Cameroon since the start of the pandemic in the midst of a Covid-19-related corruption scandal and violent crisis roiling the country’s English-speaking regions with a devastating impact on people’s right to health,” said Sara Saadoun, senior business and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “When badly-needed aid is being squandered or stolen, it would be irresponsible for the IMF to approve another loan without safeguards to ensure that the money goes where it is intended.”
On May 27, 2021, the IMF said that it had reached a staff agreement for the loan “to mitigate the consequences of the pandemic,” among other objectives. The IMF did not specify the amount or detail any concrete measures to address corruption other than saying that “effective enforcement of the anti-corruption legal framework will also be critical.” The IMF previously disbursed two emergency loans totalling $382 million to Cameroon in response to the pandemic. Although the government made specific commitments to the IMF to use these funds transparently and accountably, its Covid-19 spending has been marred by secrecy and credible allegation of widespread mismanagement and corruption.
On May 19, Cameroonian media published a summary of an audit by a Supreme Court investigative body, the Chambres des Comptes. The audit detailed findings of large-scale corruption and mismanagement involving 180 billion CFA ($333 million) spent in response to Covid-19 up to December 31, 2020. It recommended “initiating 10 judicial cases regarding findings that likely violate criminal law.” Citing the findings, as well as major corruption scandals, including one linked to the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) project that took place during a past IMF loan program and for which no one was held accountable, 20 prominent Cameroonian women urged the IMF Board not to approve any additional funding until the government accounted for prior IMF loans and held those complicit in corruption accountable. The audit found “numerous abuses” in the use of funds. For example, it found that a single company, Mediline Medical Cameroon, was awarded a “quasi-monopoly” on government contracts for personal protective equipment (PPE), Covid-19 tests, and other medical material, despite not being active in the country before the pandemic.