Congo intelligence service orders audit of interim government spending

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The intelligence agency in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has ordered an audit of spending by the interim government that has run the country for seven months since President Felix Tshisekedi’s inauguration, the agency’s head said on Wednesday.

Intelligence chief Justin Inzun Kakiak declined in a phone interview to elaborate on reasons for the audit, ordered in an 17 August letter to the inspector general of finances, but civil society groups have accused the interim cabinet of profligate spending.

Since taking office in January after a disputed election, Tshisekedi has promised to clean up the corruption he said proliferated under his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

Kabila, who had been in office for 18 years, was prevented by term limits from continuing in power.

The interim cabinet consists largely of holdovers from Kabila’s final government. They have remained in place as negotiations to form a new government dragged on between Tshisekedi and Kabila, whose coalition won large parliamentary majorities in December’s vote.

Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba finally named new ministers and vice ministers on Monday, but they have yet to be sworn into office.

Widespread corruption has helped make the country one of the world’s poorest despite copious reserves of copper, cobalt and gold. Kabila’s anti-corruption czar estimated in 2015 that the country loses up to $15 billion a year due to fraud, three times the federal budget.

The intelligence agency letter, written on Inzun’s behalf by his deputy, orders the inspector general of finances to “audit all spending from the public treasury to all government ministries since (Tshisekedi’s) inauguration.” It says the order is “for urgent reasons of state security,” without elaborating. Inzun confirmed its authenticity.

Watchdog groups have criticised heavy spending by the interim government, some of whose ministers have overseen two or three portfolios at a time after other ministers left to take up seats in parliament. For example, it sent a delegation of more than 170 people to the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament in Egypt in June.

By the end of July, the presidency had already exceeded its budget for the entire year by 37%, according to official data.

Tshisekedi’s spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment.

Tshisekedi has previously dismissed media reports about wasteful spending as “speculation” pushed by his adversaries. Tshisekedi’s authority is tenuous given the large majorities enjoyed by Kabila’s allies in parliament.