Currently, the 2020 Covid-19 fund budget implementation report is the subject of disagreement between the Minister of Public Health Manaouda Malachie and his peer of the Ministry of Finance, Louis Paul Motaze.
In the report published on July 21, 2021, the Ministry of Finance indicated that the budget was not properly implemented because the Ministry of Public Health failed to clear the cash advances, amounting to XAF45.9 billion, it received to carry out coronavirus combating activities.
According to the writers, the Ministry of Public Health received the cash advances pending the creation of the special purpose account CAS Covid-19 from which coronavirus combating activities were to be funded. Those advances, the recipient was to clear once the CAS Covid-19 was created in July 2020, by providing documentary proofs of the expenses funded with the cash advances. However, they wrote, up to the report writing date, the latter had not done so.
In a correspondence dated July 27, 2021, the Minister of Public Health rejected the accusation, writing that the volume of cash advances received by his ministry in the framework of the coronavirus response fund in 2020, was not up to XAF45.9 billion. Also, he added, his ministerial department has justified the expenses funded from the cash advances, and while writing the report, the Ministry of Finance did not involve the Ministry of Health’s agents
"To date, the supporting documents to justify those expenses have not been submitted to the Ministry of Finance. For that reason, the Minister of Finance contacted his peer of the Ministry of Public Health, through the correspondence dated January 27, 2021, ordering the latter to transmit the documentary proofs of the expenses funded with the cash advances, per the rules in force. The aim is to clear the advances and inscribe them into the CAS Covid-19 expenses management mechanism," the report reads.
Rejecting that claim, which adds to the accusations already made by the audit chamber against his ministerial department, in his July 27, 2021 letter, Manaouda Malachie asked the Minister of Finance to take measures to rectify the inaccurate claims, which could raise questions about the honesty of the report.
For instance, Manaouda Malachie states, "unlike what is stated on page 213 of the report, (…) the expenses funded by the treasury department of the Ministry of Public Health in the framework of the coronavirus response strategy amount to XAF34.5 billion, not XAF45.89 billion" as the report claims.
However, the Minister of Health’s assertion is somehow inaccurate. Indeed, page 123 of the said report indicates that the cash advances disbursed to the Ministry of Public Health in the framework of the coronavirus response strategy in 2020 were XAF45.9 billion. On page 26, the report lists the advances as follows: XAF34.52 billion paid to the treasury department of the Ministry of Public Health by the government for the expenses, XAF3.3 billion donated by natural and legal persons through the accounts created at BGFI and UBA, as well as XAF8.07 billion cash advances to the Health Ministry by the CAS Covid-19. This effectively equals XAF45.8 billion.
Also, rejecting the claim that his ministerial department has not submitted documents to justify expenses funded from the cash advances, Manaouda Malachie informs that the documents justifying the expenses are available at the treasury department of institutions that carried out the various operations funded. ‘Those treasuries are under your Ministry. (…) Cash advance clearing is just a budget consolidation mechanism. It is not the Ministry of Public Health’s duty if to refer to the provisions of the circular nº 000220/C/Minfi of July 22, 2020, governing the organization, operations, and monitoring/evaluation of the National Solidarity Fund to Fight the Coronavirus and its Economic and Social Impacts (…) The expenses funded by the Ministry of Public Health using the cash advances were executed following normal procedures,’ Manaouda Malachie added.
"Cash advances are cleared by the General Directorate of the Budget (DGB) of the Ministry of Finance. The various accounting posts that fund expenses using cash advances send their requests to the DGB with supporting documents to get the expenses listed in the budget,” a public accountant explains confirming Manaouda Malachie’s argument.
According to a source well informed on the matter, ‘seven months ago, the treasury department of the Ministry of Public Health submitted budget coverage requests and documentary proofs justifying XAF22 billion expenses.’
‘However, the DGB is yet to follow up on the request. So, the Ministry of Public Health should not be the only one to be blamed in the current situation,’ the source says.
Copies submitted instead of original documents
According to the latter, although it should not bear all the blames, the Ministry of Public Health should accept part of it.
Specifically, as far as the cash advances by the government is concerned, "there is still over XAF12 billion cash advances whose contracts must be regularized by the Ministry of Finance. It has already regularized almost all of the contracts, except for a dozen of them. Concerning the yet to be regularized contracts, the Ministry of Finance contacted the Health Ministry but, it is yet to get a response (…) In short, the treasury department of the Ministry of Finance is still expecting the answers from the DGB for the XAF22 billion expenses whose documents it submitted about seven months ago and the response of the Ministry of Public Health for contracts involving expenses worth over XAF1 billion to finalize the Covid-19 budget coverage requests,” our source states.
As for the XAF3.3 billion donated by natural and legal persons, all the documents required, including the cash receipt journal and the cash book of the cashier appointed for the purpose, were submitted on April 20, 2021. To this explanation, the DGB informs that instead of sending the originals as required by law, the Ministry of Public Health sent copies.
Meanwhile, for the cash advances by CAS Covid-19, the Health Minister has not provided information on whether it submitted documents justifying the expenses funded by that cash.
Finance Minister’s response
On July 28, 2021, Finance Minister Louis Paul Motaze replied to the observations made by the Minister of Public Health. First, he explains, the Ministry of Public Health agents were not involved in the report writing process because they chose not to actively take part in it. Then, to establish facts and dispel misunderstandings, he suggested the organization of a work meeting.
Nevertheless, in his July 28, 2021, correspondence, he reveals that after a new calculation, it appears that the cash advances from CAS Covid-19 to the Ministry of Public Health amount to XAF7.4 billion, not XAF8.07 billion as claimed in the report. So, he urged for the work meeting to review the case before the report is submitted to the supreme audit institution.
Aboudi Ottou & Dominique Mbassi