Some eight months after his spectacular arrest, Gérard Emmanuel Ondo Ndong, the former Director General of FEICOM (in charge of financial assistance to local councils) appeared before the Yaounde High Court last Tuesday to finally listen to the laundry list of charges against him. Ondo Ndong, along with 30 of his collaborators, is charged with embezzlement, corruption, forgery and use of forgeries. Ondo Ndong is specifically accused of embezzling 29 Billion Francs CFA (FCFA) – i.e., about 56 million US Dollars - from FECICOM coffers between 2001 and 2005.
According to news reports, the charges against the former FEICOM boss and his accomplices stem from an audit which was requested by the French development agency, Agence Francaise de Developpement. It should be noted that Ondo Ndong is the first of three former Director Generals of public corporations accused of embezzlement to go on trial.
Mind-Boggling and Obscene
On Tuesday November 14, 2006, Magistrate Noé Bella Marie read out the list of charges against Ondo Ndong before a packed court house. The charges are as spectacular as his fall from grace back in February 2006. And, the amount involved is simply mind-boggling by any standards, particularly Cameroonian.
Here is a sample of the charges:
Between 2001 and 2003, Ondo Ndong fraudulently gave retroactive bonuses worth 43 million Francs CFA to some FEICOM Board members. During the same period, he fraudulently gave another 10.8 millions FCFA to three Board members. A 12 million FCFA was also given to two other members as a “special gratification”. He also gave a “special bonus” of 70.7 million FCFA to members of the Tenders Board, while he gave himself 165.2 million FCFA.
In 2001, Ondo Ndong used 14 million FCFA from FECOM coffers to pay his lawyers’ fees.
Between 2001 and 2002, he fraudulently obtained and retained 5 cars belonging to FEICOM worth 259 million FCFA.
Between 2001 and 2005, Ondo Ndong embezzled 6.6 billion FCFA under the guise of “financial aid” offered by FEICOM, and payments for official missions which never took place.
In 2005, the former Director General diverted 104 million FCFA which was supposed to be partial payment to a firm called Kinepolis. That same year, he forged documents which allowed him to take possession of 3 Toyota trucks and a Toyota land cruiser belonging to FEICOM totaling196.3 million FCFA.
Also in 20005, Ondo Ndong, with the complicity one of his collaborators, forged documents discharging him of personal bills amounting to 46.3 million FCFA.
And between 2001 and 2005 Ondo Ndong is alleged to have swindled an unbelievable 20.3 billion (with a B!) FCFA meant for local councils and municipalities.
As stated earlier, 30 other FEICOM employees have also been charged for their role in the great FEICOM swindle. For example, accountant Venceslas Djomo Nomo is accused of embezzling and being complicit in the embezzlement of 13 Billion FCFA; former financial Controller Jean Bessala Nzana is accused of embezzling and being complicit in the embezzlement 5 billion FCFA, etc., etc.
Here are some figures that will help put the FEICOM swindle in context.
In Cameroon’s draft budget for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, 105 billion FCFA is allocated to Public Health. The FEICOM team allegedly embezzled over a quarter half of Cameroon’s entire annual Health budget!
According to statistics obtained from another website, the Bertoua - Garoua-boulai highway (248 km) completed in 2002 cost 2.5 billion FCFA to construct. Ondo Ndong’s 29 billion FCFA loot is more than enough to construct the Kumba Mamfe road which has not been completed after three decades supposedly because of a lack of funds…
Officials at the University of Buea estimate that the University needs at least 400 million FCFA to effectively kick off its newly-created Faculty of Medicine. The University is currently looking for private donors for this project because the Government of Cameroon claims it can ill afford the cost at this time… Funds just from Ondo Ndong’s fictitious “missions” could have constructed the basic infrastructure of at least three medical schools in the country…
Finally, it is worth noting that the 52 billion FCFA was embezzled only within a five-year period. One can only wonder how much has been pilfered from FEICOM coffers since its creation in 1977…
In the coming days, Gilles Roger Bélinga former Director General of the Cameroon Real Estate Company (SIC), and Joseph Edou, former Director General of the State land loan fund (Crédit Foncier du Cameroun) will also appear before the Yaounde High Court to hear and answer the charges against them.