World Bank suspends project financing worth 137.3 billion shillings in DRC

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East Africa

World Bank suspends project financing worth 137.3 billion shillings in DRC

The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi.

The President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi. PICTURES | LUDOVIC MARIN | AFP

The World Bank has suspended funding for humanitarian and development projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo worth more than 137.3 billion shillings ($1 billion) after the government dissolved the project fund without warning, the lender said.

The suspension will affect more than 600,000 beneficiaries, including victims of sexual violence, the World Bank told the Congolese finance minister last week in a letter seen by Reuters. A World Bank spokesperson confirmed its authenticity.

The letter also said the bank was still awaiting documents on the status of 12.49 billion shillings ($91 million) already advanced for projects out of a total of 137.3 billion shillings ($1.04 billion) .

On May 4, Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi dissolved the structure, the “Social Fund of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” by presidential decree and created another public fund.

This change is due to “the evolution of the legal framework governing public institutions”, according to his statement.

In the letter dated May 12, the World Bank’s director of operations for the country, Albert Zeufack, said the institution learned of the decision through the press.

“Before the project funds can be further committed, the government and the World Bank would need to agree on transitional measures… to ensure that the funds are used for their intended purposes,” he said in the letter.

A spokesperson for the Congolese finance ministry said it was waiting for the green light from the presidency before being able to comment.

Presidency spokesperson Tina Salama denied any suspension of funding and said there would be transitional management of the fund. “I think arrangements have been made,” she said. She did not respond to questions about the 12.49 billion shillings ($91 million).

One of the fund’s beneficiaries was the Panzi Foundation led by Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist who won the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with victims of sexual violence.

“It’s a catastrophe for the victims,” Mukwege told Reuters. He said he was notified a few days earlier that expenses incurred under his program would stop being reimbursed. A program coordinator said he had to turn away victims.

The abrupt decision to change the financing structure is an example of bad governance, said Valéry Madianga, director of a Congolese organization specializing in public finance auditing.

“How is it possible… that a public service, which had signed a billion-dollar program contract with the World Bank, was dissolved or changed its social purpose without the latter being aware of it? ” he said.

Four of Congo’s leading opposition politicians wrote last week to the heads of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the African Development Bank asking them to conduct an audit of their funds in Congo, saying that they suspected misuse.

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