Photo: Senegalese protest. Source: Global Information Network - Photo: 2023

Trouble in Senegal Over Alleged Mishandling of Covid Funds

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | DAKAR (IDN) — Hundreds of Senegalese gathered at the Place de la Nation in Dakar to denounce irregularities reported by auditors researching a Covid-19 fund. It was the second protest over reported problems with the funds to be called in less than a month.

The review by the Court of Auditors was said to have found “shortcomings,” “overbilling,” or lack of evidence of expenditure in their investigation of the Response Fund against the effects of Covid-19 during 2020 and 2021.

Close to a billion dollars was possibly mishandled by the fund, according to Yewwi Askan Wi (Wolof for ‘Free the People), an opposition group.

A large police force monitored the rally, belatedly authorized by the local governor. Organizers of the protest complained that some public officials were “shamelessly and unscrupulously” using the funds while about 28 million dollars was not spent on Covid-19 at all.

A dozen civil society organizations backed the protest where shouts of “thieves!” and “You will not digest our billions” were heard.

Opposition leader Ousmane Sonko congratulated the organizers and all the Senegalese who turned out in support of the rally against the embezzlement of public funds, at the initiative of civil society at the Place de l’Obélisque. People are not happy with Macky Sall and his government, he said. 

The Court of Auditors has asked the Ministry of Justice to open a judicial investigation against at least 10 people, including officials from the ministries involved in the irregularities. Among the irregularities, it was reported, was an “overbilling” of more than 4 million euros on the price of rice purchased and distributed to the poorest populations, and several defects in “supporting documents” for expenditures.

It also noted “a cash payment to suppliers in the amount of 3.8 million euros, while the texts require the payment of state expenses by check or bank or postal transfer.

“The analysis of aid and assistance” to families shows that “people with the same first and last names, with identical identity card numbers and sometimes the same addresses, received aid several times for different amounts”.

The government, according to news accounts, minimized the auditors’ findings, claiming that any discrepancies affected less than one percent of the fund.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 88,900 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Senegal from January 2020 to January 2023, with 1,968 deaths. Recent WHO statistics show Senegal with some of the lowest vaccination numbers in Africa. Only 10% of the population of 16 million was vaccinated as of January 2022.

Some 332,118 vaccine doses of the Chinese Sinopharm have recently been financed by the project.

Meanwhile, a third wave of the pandemic is sweeping through the country, notes the World Bank, overwhelming the health system and hospital capacity with an influx of new patients. In addition, unpredictable global vaccine supplies and vaccine hesitancy have dampened a swift campaign roll-out.” [IDN-InDepthNews — 09 January 2023]

Photo: Senegalese protest. Source: Global Information Network

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