Interviewed By Kini Nsom
Interviewed By Kini Nsom
The Post: You are alleged to have resigned from government as Minister of Public Service and Administrative Reforms after President Paul Biya failed to take action on a list of corrupt officials you submitted to him. Is that true?
Haman Garga: When I was in charge of Public Commission at the State Control, I was presiding over what was called the Disciplinary Council for Budget and Accountability.
It is like a court condemning people who have mismanaged public enterprises. This body held two meetings every month. When I resigned from the government in 1992, I left 42 very important files, which would be submitted to this body for the trial of at least 42 persons. I say "at least" because the administration or the public enterprises that State Control investigated, not only general managers or the financial directors that were corrupt; many other people were involved. Among these 42 persons that I am telling you, only three of them have been arrested between 1997 and now.
Who are these three people?
I am sorry I can't give you their names. But you can guess because the big guns that are at the Kodengui Prison are not many. I personally spoke to President Biya about two of these three persons whom I am talking of. Let me say it in all fairness that President Biya didn't refuse to have these people tried. Unfortunately, he did not give me instructions to have them tried before I left government.
You asked to know why I resigned. When I was appointed Minister in charge of Public Service and especially State Control, I was happy. I thought I was going to implement Mr. Biya's policy of rigour and moralisation, which he proclaimed on November 6, 1982
November 6, 1982
That ability is in my blood. I also thought he had chosen me because he had seen that I have the natural ability to fight the scourge of corruption in our country. This is why I wanted my tenure to be a total success both for him and myself. Unfortunately, he withdrew the State Control from my Ministry without telling me why. You cannot work well when you feel that your boss lacks confidence in you.
When people advised him to withdraw the State Control from my Ministry because I was so hard on corrupt officials and embezzlers of public funds and he harkened to it, I was not happy at all. This is the main reason for which I resigned. But 15 years later, President Biya has started doing what I recommended at that time.
To me, he has only started the fight against these embezzlers because what he is doing is not enough. There are many other general managers of state corporations and Ministers who have embezzled huge sums of money from the state coffers. Just imagine the enormity of the files.
If you add these people to the 42 files, which I earlier talked about, the state needs to arrest more people; many of the highly corrupt people who have embezzled public funds are still in government. I said this last December 31, when CRTV asked for my opinion on President Paul Biya's speech that day. The government is still made up of many corrupt people.
You are aware that Alphonse Siyam Siewe, Minister of Water Resources and Energy has been sacked and arrested…?
But he was not the only corrupt Minister! I have proof that there are still many Ministers in government who are highly corrupt because I am working with the NGO Bonne Conscience, which is following up the issue of corruption in our country.
Did you say apart from discussing some two people with President Biya, you never submitted the list to him…?
No! It was not right for me to take a list of corrupt officials to Biya and say, "these officials are corrupt; you have to punish them." That is not the way to work. I had the files in my office and I was working on them. By then, Emmanuel Oyono Etoundi, now General Manager of the Douala Ports Authority was the Secretary. I don't want you to push me to say wrong things.
What do you think about President Biya's present action against corrupt government officials? Is it not coming when a lot of damage has already been done to state funds?
It is coming late, very late, but it is better late than never. But 15 years of silence in the wake of the upsurge of the embezzlement of public funds by government officials, is a lot of damage to Mr. Biya's policy of rigour and moralisation. If these corrupt people were arrested, tried and imprisoned, we could have averted this high scale embezzlement. Let us wait and see whether they will arrest and try all those I know by name, and the amounts they have stashed in foreign banks by embezzling public funds.
Do you see President Biya continuing this onslaught against perpetrators of corruption?
I wish Mr. Biya to continue and not stop the onslaught against corrupt officials because of politics. I know some people will tell him to stop because he will have a political problem. Mr. Biya is doing his last Presidential mandate, so he has to clean the house before his departure.
Are you, in other words, urging President Biya not to listen to those who think he is punishing CPDM militants?
Those people are not CPDM militants at all. They are only deceiving Mr. Biya. A good militant cannot embezzle public funds; a good militant cannot work against the will of his political boss. And if I were in the CPDM, I would ask that they all be sacked from the party. The 42 files, which I left, are very important because each of the corrupt officials concerned had embezzled at least FCFA 1 billion of state funds. Messi Messi, who flew out of the country alone embezzled FCFA 4 billion.
Some people believe that government's political will to fight corruption can only be seen if it implements Article 66 of the country's constitution. What is your opinion?
Applying that article of the constitution is a strong way to fight corruption. I don't know why they are not implementing that article. Well, most of them would not want good laws to be implemented because it will be to their disadvantage. Anyway, I will submit a draft law to Mr. Biya through my NGO on how to effectively fight corruption.
One would wonder whether Mr. Biya has taken action now against corrupt officials because of pressure from the US Cameroon
If it is yes, it means that such malpractices would be allowed to flourish again after Cameroon