Significant irregularities in the management of the fund intended to combat the coronavirus epidemic in Togo and its economic consequences have been pinpointed in a report by the Court of Auditors which is causing outrage in the West African country.
Released in late January, the 86-page document is making headlines this week and is being widely discussed on social media, with several opposition figures calling on the president to take action.
The Covid-19 Response and Solidarity Fund (FRSC) was created by the government the day after the discovery of the first case of coronavirus in March 2020. In particular, it received technical and financial support from international partners, such as the Union European, the IMF or even the World Bank.
Out of 108 billion FCFA (165 million euros) spent in 2020, says the report, "certain payments (...) related to non-priority expenditure or not having direct links with the implementation of the measures response to Covid 19".
He also points to cash transfers, a measure intended to support the poorest, which have sometimes benefited people who were not eligible.
Above all, the report notes an expenditure of 13 million euros spent on the purchase of 31,500 tonnes of rice by the Ministry of Commerce, without any trace of an order.
The government has so far not commented on the observations of this audit report, which is controversial on social networks and in the press.
“Scandalous management of Covid funds: the vampires of the Republic unmasked by the Court of Auditors” , headlined the weekly Le Change on Thursday. For the newspaper, the head of state Faure Gnassingbé must "discharge those involved in this scandal".
The opposition calls on the president to "act", like MP Gerry Taama who sees this report as proof of embezzlement of public funds. "At a time when Covid-19 and the high cost of living lead Togolese to tighten their belts, it is intolerable that other compatriots (of) take advantage to enrich themselves," he said in a statement.
"Too many people are getting rich on the backs of the Togolese. That's enough!", protested Nathaniel Olympio, another leader of the Togolese opposition.
President Faure Gnassingbé came to power in 2005 after the death of his father, General Gnassingbé Eyadéma, who had ruled Togo with an iron fist for 38 years. He was re-elected in polls that were all contested by the opposition.