The office of the Southwest Development Authority (SOWEDA),Buea, has reportedly been burgled and one of the institution’s strongboxes, as well as five computers with one containing financial records carted away.
The burglary has occurred at a time when state auditors on mission in the Southwest Region have temporarily established their office at SOWEDA to scrutinize the financial accounts of state institutions in the Southwest region. Such special audit missions, The Recorder gathered, are squarely in line with President Biya’s war against corruption and embezzlement of public funds.
SOWEDA was created in 1987 as a para-statal with the overall goal of alleviating poverty in the Southwest region. SOWEDA alleviates poverty by identifying problems and proposing well-designed projects for government funding, such as the just-ended over 17 billion Fcfa RUMPI Area Participatory Development Project, whose second phase is yet to be approved.
The sitting General Manager of SOWEDA, Dr. Eneme Andrew, has been in office for about twenty (20) years, since his appointment to that strategic development office in November 1995.
The armed robbery took place in the wee hours of Wednesday January 28, when the burglars in a Carina E vehicle reportedly arrived at SOWEDA main gate, hooted for it to be opened on claims that they were SOWEDA workers who wanted to park the car in the premises for safety. Unfortunately for the guards, they were swiftly overpowered and tied up by the armed robbers who then dashed in the office to execute their diabolic mission.
The carting away of the computers with financial records has fuelled speculations that it could be a scheme by some SOWEDA officials to do away with evidence, for fear of an unannounced audit of the institution, which since creation has managed billions of FCFA of public funds, to enhance development in the Southwest Region.
But kange Elinge, Director of General Affairs (DGA) at SOWEDA thinks differently.
“Actually, SOWEDA is just providing space to a team of state auditors from Yaounde.We don’t know whom they are talking to or what their mission is. But we hear they came to audit the Public Investment Budget of the Southwest Region. I don’t think they came for SOWEDA. We are just providing them office space and other small logistics”, he told The Recorder. “We have not in the past had any problem with auditors or controllers; because we regularly receive control missions from the Supreme State Audit, the Audit Bench, the Ministries of Finance and Agriculture...I don’t think we have any problems with our financial management.”
|Kange Elinge: SOWEDA 's DGA|
The Director was at loss to understand what the burglars who broke into SOWEDA (the office of the GM, that of the DGA, the Accounting Office, and that of the Finance and Budget etc) were searching for in office cupboards, displacing files and scattering them about. “SOWEDA, being a public administrative establishment, doesn’t keep money in the office. It is the Government Treasury that serves as our bank”, he noted.Mr. kange said the stolen safe did not contain money apart from some important documents, which he did not disclose.
He expressed regret that the official computer of the Finance and Budget Officer was carted away alongside four other computers belonging to an accounts assistant.
At least ten SOWEDA workers have been interrogated by the Judicial Police in Buea and the two security guards who were on duty when the burglars stormed the fenced office are reportedly in police custody, Kange Elinge,SOWEDA’s Director of General Affairs told The Recorder in his office last Thursday.
Mr. Kange who was speaking on behalf of the General Manager, disclosed that Dr. Eneme Andrew had not been well for a couple of days “but we informed him about the burglary and he came to the office and talked with the police .But as I said, since he is not feeling fine he had to return home”
He said all is relatively OK at SOWEDA, adding that there is no salary or arrears problem as Government gives it quarterly subvention
But the DGA added, “The only worry of SOWEDA now is that there is no on-going project that we are supervising. The Rumpi Area Participatory Development Project ended two years ago. We were hoping that by now Government would have approved the second phase, but negotiations are still on with the ADB, SOWEDA’s funding partner”
It would be recalled that the Pioneer General manager of SOWEDA,Franklin Ndille(late) ,appointed in 1991 when the structure went operational, died in 1994.His deputy Prince Jacob Lekunze became interim GM same year up to November 1995.In November 1995,Dr.Eneme Andrew was appointed, by a presidential decree, as General Manager, to date
(First Published in The RECORDER Newspaper,Cameroon,of February 2,2015)