I just now got around to taking a look of the Congo’s budgetary performance for the first trimester of the year (it was published on the budget ministry’s website several months ago.) Altogether, it was a dismal period, as the global financial downturn hit the commodity markets hard. The government was only able to gather 45% of the revenues it had counted on. Another reason was the considerable inflation during the period – in January alone, the inflation was at over 10% (which would have led to annual inflation of over 100% had it continued apace). At one point, the government was so strapped for cash there was only a few million US$ left in the Central Bank – thankfully the government was bailed out by $600 million in EU, World Bank and African Dev Bank money.
Some other highlights:
- The budget for justice for the trimester was only $2 million. As a comparison, the government spent $5,8 million on SPORTS of all things. The Congolese are a bit football crazy, and numerous politicians own soccer teams, whom they use as instruments to rally support around elections (Governor Moise Katumbi of Katanga is president of TP Mazembe, the best team in the country – he even says that he spend 35% of his time on sports; General Gabriel Amisi, the army commander, is the owner of Maniema Union of Kindu; Governor Andre Kimbuta of Kinshasa used to run AS Vita Club). I know the Congolese really wanted their team to make the World Cup next year, but they didn’t even qualify! (Beaten by Malawi, of all teams). So why we they go 400% over budget in the sports ministry and spent 2,5 times more on sports than on justice?
- By far the ministry with the largest budget was defense. The government spent $76 million on defense, including at least $16 million on military equipment (it’s not entirely clear, they may have spent up to $20 million), three times as much as expected. Procurement for the army is an area traditionally controlled by generals close to President Kabila and is swamp of opaque transactions, sweetheart deals and kickbacks. Very little of the procurement goes through the logistics department of the army – some of the main actors are General Francois Olenga (an old friend of Laurent Kabila, now the Inspector General of the army, who has good connections in Eastern Europe, where he spent many years); General John Numbi, a former electrician who started his political career as the commander of a youth militia in Katanga in the early 1990s before joining the army. He is now the head of the police. And General Mbala, the head of Kabila’s personal military office (maison militaire de la presidence).
- There are some other dubious budget lines. My favorite is “secret research expenses,” a budget line that was over spent by 800% for a total of $15 million (the presidency and the intelligence organization were the main culprits, apparently).