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Financial Scandal: Cameroon's Ambassador to Italy and Swedish PM pay same amount for rents

By Aloysius AGENDIA

Le Jour  newspaper, (one of Cameroon's French language daily) on its website on May 11, 2011 revealed that Cameroon’s Ambassador to Italy, Awono Essama has been living in a rented apartment worth 5000 Euros (FCFA3.250.000)  a month since June 2008.  The revelation was made in an article concerning the visit of the Head of State to Rome on the occasion of the beautification of Pope John Paul II.  It is astonishing that an ambassador of a heavily indebted and poor country like Cameroon can afford to pay such fabulous sums of money as rents.

Furthermore, the ambassador was again to start renting an office since his office (at the time this post was written) was in a state of advanced decay. How can the ambassador be paying rents worth 5000 Euros (3.250.000) a month yet, he was working in a dilapidated office? Why could a much cheaper apartment not rented for his residence and the rest of the money used to refurnish the ambassador’s office? At the moment, the government of Cameroon would be paying for the ambassador’s residence and his office. How does this help in the adequate financial management of our state resources? 

The irony here is that while a heavily indebted and poor county like Cameroon affords to pay 5000 Euros (FCFA3.250.000) a month as rent for the house of the ambassador in Italy, a very rich nation like Sweden is currently paying 60.000 kronor-sek approximately 6000 Euros (FCFA3.900.000) for the family residence of their Prime Minister in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden.  

It is worth mentioning here that the PM of Sweden is like President Paul Biya of Cameroon. According to an article published on Sweden’s News in English website, The Local, on April 29, 2011 the Swedish PM is presently living in a building worth 60.000kronor-sek (FCFA 3.900.000) a month since his official residence is under repair. He is expected to stay in the apartment for six months pending the refurbishment of his official family resident.  On the contrary, our ambassador in Italy has been living in the extravagant rented apartment since 2008 when he assumed office. Furthermore, Swedish ministers live in far cheaper apartments. Why this unexplained attachment of our leaders to luxury, extravagance and vanity while the majority of the population remain without housing, health care, good roads, schools etc? It is some kind of psychological or, mental or cultural illness affecting most of our rulers?

Rome is certainly less expensive than Stockholm and equally less comfortable in terms of beauty and facilities. This does not mean that some apartments in Rome cannot be more expensive than those in Stockholm, but, a comparison of the rents of the Swedish PM in Stockholm and the Cameroon Ambassador in Rome merits raising some eyebrows.

The extravagant nature of most of our government may be a reflection of the multiple visits our president makes out of the country, as well a reflection of the standards upheld by other ambassadors. We remember the scandal that surrounded the visit of President Paul Biya in French city of Le Baule   from mid August 2009 which  he is said to have lavished several hundreds of millions FCFA  in just  three weeks when Cameroonians are languishing in poverty. According to France 24, the visit cost 800.000 Euros (FCFA 520.000.000)

Lessons from the Scandinavia

We have a lot to learn from countries in the Scandinavia where financial probity is the watch word. The colonial mentality of the rest of European countries and the ruthless Anglo-American capitalist tendencies are uncommon here.  Democracy is at its best and the interest of the people is placed first ahead of the interest of CEOs and their corporations. People treat public issues as their private business- giving it the utmost attention and the rule of law is at its best.

It is common see senior party officials as well as MPs both in the ruling alliance and in the opposition in their late 20s and early 30s.  They recent rejected a government plan to auction some government companies to the private sector, stressing more on the need to improve service delivery and accountability in state companies. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland all have the same type of modus operandi; citizen interest first, equal rights and equal access to all state facilities. They may not be perfect, but they are far better than capitalists and imperialists who spread around the world giving us lectures on democracy, corruption and management.

The Cameroon government desperately needs to curb corruption and streamline its management and expenses in terms of luxury car purchases, irrelevant and dubious missions and mission allowances, unnecessary expenses in feasting when the least opportunity arises, duplicity of posts etc. Sending people to this part of the world which is completely different from the rest of Europe, to learn something is certainly not a bad idea.

What was again very irritating in the article by Le Jour was the revelation on the constant largess of the ambassador towards embassy employees and the revelation on the tips given by Paul Biya during visits in Rome. The tendency of always “motivating” even state employees with tips must stop. That is corruption. Any civil servant has the duty to do his or her job. It neither a right nor a favour performing a job for which we are paid.

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