Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Madame Minister of State Supreme Control,
Excellency Minister Eyebe Ayissi
Distinguished Members of Government
Distinguished guests from the African Training and Research Centre in Administration for Development (CAFRAD).
Madame Le Ministre, it is an honor to be here with you this morning, at this international conference dedicated to the prevention and the fight against fraud and the misappropriation of public funds.
I would like to congratulate the Cameroonian authorities for this initiative and for the decisive steps taken over the past few years to prevent and fight fraud and the misappropriation of public funds.
Preventing and fighting fraud and the misappropriation of public funds is vital for the development of Cameroon. The United States has learned its own lessons on this subject through our own history. And we learned that building strong institutions was essential to combat corruption. We are still learning. Over two years ago a former Governor was convicted and sentenced for accepting over $115,000 in gifts. Former congressmen, mayors, and other public officials have been convicted also. So this is not a struggle that is alien to America. That is why we believe it essential to share lessons learned.
- Corruption steals directly from the pockets of citizens, be them American or Cameroonian, or anywhere else in the world for that matter. To truly make a nation’s economy flourish and for its potential to be unleashed, corruption must be reduced and eliminated. Otherwise, corruption is one of the key guarantees that the cycle of poverty continues for nations.
- When somebody misuses public funds, they take away resources that should be invested or used to improve the lives of people.
- Misappropriating public funds stifle public investment and eventually economic growth.
- Embezzling public funds damages public confidence in State institutions
- It deters private investors because it contributes to the deterioration of the business climate.
- The misappropriation of public funds is a zero sum game. In other words, one person’s gain is equivalent to another’s loss, so the net change in wealth or benefit is zero.
- Perhaps more importantly, embezzling public funds sends the wrong signal to the youth and to the public. And make no mistake, the public is always watching and judging public officials. Perceptions can equal realities to them, and therefore public opinion and freedom of the press matters, and it matters a lot for all democracies.
The Government of Cameroon has been resolute in its proclamations and efforts trying to root out the activities of individuals who engage in such illegal and immoral practices. I know, that as we speak, the Special Criminal Tribunal continues to examine many cases of allegations of misappropriation of public funds. Cameroon has strong laws and their enforcement will yield positive results.
Madame Le Ministre, I would like to commend the diligent leadership of your predecessor, Minister Ayissi Eyebe, when he was at the helm of the Supreme State Control for his bold and courageous initiatives. In 2014, His Excellency Minister Eyebe sent his top advisers to the United States. These experienced investigators travelled to the United States, twice in one year, and were received by:
- The United States Congress;
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI);
- The United States Treasury;
- The U.S. Government Accountability Office (U.S. GAO);
- The Department of Justice.
The objective of these visits were not to import, copy, and paste the U.S. model unto Cameroon, but rather to share experiences and learn from each other. In the United States like in Cameroon, preventing and fighting fraud and the misappropriation of public funds is a serious issue. But, let me tell you, that our laws and institutions are not perfect. We work to improve them every day, and as I mentioned earlier, building strong institutions are essential to succeed in these efforts.
As the CONSUPE experts were busy meeting their colleagues in the United States, we at the Embassy continued to engage with our partners in Cameroon. In this context, I would like to also commend the work underway between the United States Embassy and the Ministry of Public Contracts and the excellent work done by Secretary General Jean Tchoffo [Note: SG Jean Tchoffo has now moved to the Ministry of Economy – End Note]. We are making progress in the setting up of a framework for capacity building.
With your permission, Madame Le Ministre, I would like to highlight the work that we have done with the Ministry of Justice over the years and more recently, with the support of His Excellency the Vice Prime Minister, Amadou Ali and His Excellency Minister of State, Laurent Esso. We have been able to initiate many forms of cooperation between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Cameroon Ministry of Justice.
Madame Le Ministre, we recognize that, in some contexts, preventing and fighting fraud and the misappropriation of public funds require a change of culture that may span generations. For this reason, we are working to build leadership skills of the graduates of the Ecole Nationale d’Administration et de Magistrature (ENAM) in a unique tie-up with George Mason University in the U.S. State of Virginia. We are hoping to expand this kind of collaboration between U.S. and Cameroonian higher training institutions.
This event today is a logical continuation of efforts, that involves many State institutions and many committed and courageous individuals in Cameroon and in the United States. Madame Le Ministre, let me reassure you. We are going to continue our support in this area.
Thank you very much! On est ensemble!