The World Bank has suspended funding of $ 100 million for free education in the Democratic Republic of Congo after revelations of fraud, the international financial institution said in a statement on Monday.
In June, the World Bank approved funding of $ 800 million to support free public primary education in the DRC, the great project of President Félix Tshisekedi launched in September 2019.
In November, the General Inspectorate of Finance (IGF) released a report which revealed the existence of inflated lists of fictitious teachers in non-existent schools, false invoices, as well as an alleged embezzlement of 62 billion francs. Congolese ($ 31 million).
In this investigation, the IGF reported “breaches, including cases of fraud and embezzlement of public funds, as well as weaknesses in internal controls,” according to the World Bank statement.
“Taking these conclusions into account, the disbursement scheduled for December has been postponed to a later date,” announced the representation of this institution in the DRC. This is the first tranche of $ 100 million.
On January 22, two senior officials implicated in the investigation, the national director of the Teachers’ Payroll Control Service (Secope) and the Inspector General of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education, were arrested, in awaiting trial, union sources said, confirming information from Radio France Internationale (RFI).
“These two senior officials irregularly introduced a large number of non-teachers into the payroll system,” Jean-Bosco Puna, of the National Union of Catholic Teachers (Synecat), accused AFP.
Four million new schoolchildren were enrolled during the year 2019-2020, which saw a six-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic. Schools and universities were closed again in December after the resumption in October, for the same reasons.
When it was set up, the cost of free public education was estimated at 2.6 billion dollars, a good part of the state budget (6.8 billion dollars in 2021) in a country which lacks everything: hospitals, roads …
Before free education, parents paid for registration, teachers’ salaries, exam registration, even in the public sector.
The largest country in sub-Saharan Africa, the DRC has a very young population, with half of the more than 80 million inhabitants under the age of 20.