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Wikileaks Cable 16: Amadou Ali Shares Sensitive Corruption Files with US Diplomats 

Information shared in this cable was leaked to U.S. embassy officials by former Justice minister Amadou Ali, the man previously charged with coordinating high-level corruption investigations. It further asserts the versatility of the regime baron as a key U.S. informant. – This cable was written in June 2008 by Ambassador Janet Garvey and classified by political officer Tad Brown. It is based on a document offered to U.S. diplomats in Yaounde by Amadou Ali who, as Justice Minister, coordinated investigations in the anti-graft campaign styled Operation Sparrow Hawk.

The subject of the cable is alluringly spellbinding based on the scale of corrupt acts cited therein. However, it gives reason to wonder why such investigations that are supposed to be carried out under confidential circumstances could be leaked to foreign officials on any account.

The main subject of the cable is Roger Ntongo Onguene, general manager of Aeroports du Cameroon, the state agency managing all of Cameroon’s airport facilities, who has made corruption a “full-time job”.

Through this cable, we get to discover the abominable administrative foibles orchestrated by a highly corrupt public official in a domain that is crucial to Cameroon’s image abroad. The stark revelations of the cable show how best corrupt elite have turned corruption into an art in Cameroon. Through outrageously flimsy schemes, Ntongo Onguene succeeded to fleece Airports of Cameroon of hundreds of millions of FCFA.

In what the cable describes as corruption that is “breathtaking in its scope and brashness”, Ntongo Onguene accorded himself extraordinary privileges and recruited staff to the company from his ethnic Lekie division in the Centre region of Cameroon. The cable reports that the company paid fees for Ntongo’s son worth about 100 million FCFA in a UK university.

Also, the company paid about 27 million to tar the pavement leading to Ntongo’s compound. We also learn that for close to 4 years, Ntongo earned hundreds of millions FCFA by leasing his personal 4-year-old car to the company and later sold it to same for several times its value.

“Even in the Cameroonian context, where large-scale corruption is the norm, Ntongo’s brazen fleecing of the ADC is startling,” the cable bemoans, marveled at the propensity of a single man’s act on a public institution. But most amazingly, the man continued, unperturbed, in his position as general manger of the company. Reason enough for the U.S. diplomats to “question the rigor of Biya’s commitment to stamp out corruption in Cameroon”.

Continue reading below for a full unedited version of the cable as published by Wikileaks.

Subject: Astounding Corruption at Cameroon’s Airport Agency
Classified: 06/05/2008
Classified By: Political Officer Tad Brown
This message contains an action request for INL/C.

Roger Ntongo Onguene, the General Manager of Aeroports du Cameroun (ADC), the Cameroonian government agency charged with management of the nation’s airports, has embezzled millions of dollars from the ADC’s coffers, undercut the agency’s effectiveness and engaged in ethnically-biased hiring practices, according to a document given to the Embassy by Amadou Ali, Cameroon’s Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. 

Ntongo has been rumored to be among the next tranche of public officials to be fired in the Government of Cameroon’s (GRC) anti-corruption campaign dubbed "Operation Sparrowhark" by the media, but has not yet been removed from his position.  Even in the context of a government rife with malfeasance, Ntongo’s corruption is breathtaking in its scope and brashness.  End summary.
Corruption: A Full-Time Job
In a May meeting with Poloff, Vice Prime Minister and Minister for Justice Amadou Ali, who has been at the leading edge of the GRC’s anti-corruption law enforcement efforts, shared a two page document, apparently the summary of an investigation or audit, listing examples of Ntongo’s corruption and mismanagement.  Among some of the more remarkable allegations:
–for 4 years, Ntongo leased his personal vehicle (a 4-year old Toyota Camry) to the ADC for a daily fee of about $600; in 2007, he then sold the vehicle to the ADC for about $100,000; in 2005, he leased a truck to the ADC for three months at a cost of $45,000

–contrary to GRC regulations, the ADC paid more than $200,000 to cover two years of Ntongo’s son’s university fees in the UK;
–a 4WD vehicle purchased for $120,000 for the Chairman of the ADC Board was given instead to the Mayor of Obala, Ntongo’s hometown; the ADC continued to pay fuel and maintenance fees for the vehicle;
–the ADC paid about $60,000 to pave the road leading to Ntongo’s private residence;
–Ntongo terminated contracts with two companies who cleaned the airports under ADC; Ntongo then hired three companies that he owned, at contracts paying four times the previous rates (at monthly rates of about $65,000); the equipment used by these two companies was purchased by the ADC for about $700,000;
–of the personnel hired to ADC by Ntongo, 90% come from his native Lekie Distract;
The Costs of This Corruption

Although Central African Economic Community (CEMAC) regulations that were incorporated into Cameroonian law through a Presidential Decree make it illegal for anybody to have a monopoly in the aviation sector, ADC has enjoyed a monopolistic position in Cameroon, where airlines are obliged to pay ADC fees even for services that are not needed or never provided. 

According to a well-placed industry source, the ADC’s fees are among the highest in the world, second only to Tokyo’s, and with no value added; airlines are forced to hire sub-contractors to do the handling that ADC is paid to do.  These exorbitant fees were factors in the recent failure of domestic airlines NACAM and Elysian Airlines and national flag carrier CAMAIR.  There is currently no domestic air service in Cameroon, with CAMAIR formally closed and undergoing liquidation.
Comment:  What Does it Take to Get Fired?

Even in the Cameroonian context, where large-scale corruption is the norm, Ntongo’s brazen fleecing of the ADC is startling.  The ADC’s effective monopoly has stunted the aviation sector in Cameroon and effectively killed Cameroon’s domestic airlines.  No amount of GRC investment or training from the USG or any other donor could possibly overcome the paralyzing effect of such intense corruption and mismanagement. 

Ntongo’s case provides the evidence, if any more were needed, that corruption is inextricably linked to Cameroon’s development challenges.  The emergence of this document provides reason to believe that Ntongo will face justice, but the GRC’s decision to allow him to continue running the ADC provides insight into Biya’s management style and reason to question the rigor of his commitment to stamp out corruption in Cameroon.  End comment.
Action Request for INL/C
Post asks that INL/C place a p212f hit for Roger Ntongo Onguene (DOB 17-May-1959).

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