Sunday, November 10, 2013

EITI: CED Denounces IMF Involvement in Mining Scandal

(NewsWatch Cameroon)-Since 2001 when its mining code was adopted, Cameroon has embarked on an unprecedented expansion of its mining sector, awarding more than 100 exploration licenses although this process has not been unencumbered by scandals involving the state and several other stakeholders within this domain.
One such case involves GEOVIC, the American mining company that was the first in 2003, to receive an exploitation permit for a cobalt/nickel concession in the East Region of Cameroon.
In a letter addressed to Christian Lagarde, the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Centre for Environment and Development (CED) Cameroon, revealed that the government of Cameroon allegedly carried out a financial transaction with GEOVIC which has never been accounted for.
The said transaction which took place between 2008 and 2009 cost the Cameroon public treasury approximately 60 million dollars; moreover, according to the letter to Ms. Lagarde which further describes the transaction as a “financial scam”, the IMF was “presumably involved”.
Samuel Nguiffo, CED Cameroon
 “It was expected to generate considerable revenue for the government of Cameroon and for the area where the project is located,” the letter reads. “That has however failed to materialize”.
According to CED, though Cameroon published conciliatory reports covering the period 2008 and 2009 in the wake of its joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2005, no mention has ever been made of this transaction despite the massive sum of 60 million dollars transferred by the country’s government to GEOVIC.
The letter further reads that “this transaction took place at a time during which Cameroon and the IMF were implementing a program under the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility”.
CED asserts that over the past ten years, GEOVIC has not generated any significant revenue for the state of Cameroon. “The exploitation of the mine never took place, and they recently sold their permit to a Chinese Company. Therefore, not only has the state failed to benefit from the project, but above all, the state seems to have actually lost money on this deal,” the letter explains. 
Alamine Ousmane Mey,-MINFI Cameroon
At the time, Cameroon has just been accorded the compliance member status of the EITI after two unsuccessful attempts. CED officials believe that the payment of such an amount which appears nowhere in the documents tracing financial and “in-kind” transactions between the state and companies operating within its territory should be clarified. “If not, doubts might be cast on the sincerity of Cameroon’s approach in its quest for compliance and beyond, on transparency in the management of its entire mining sector.”
Since the International Monetary Fund played a central role in promoting the EITI and the “Guide on Resource Revenue Transparency,” produced in 2005 which has been a key tool for all EITI stakeholders, CED is consequently questioning whether the international financial institution was aware of the 60 million dollars transaction before its conclusion as well as the irregularities associated with that deal. The CSO has also questioned whether mechanisms exist that could assist the Government of Cameroon recover the amounts unduly paid to GEOVIC, especially since the company has now been sold to a Chinese Company.

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