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Congolese Outraged Over Graft in State Institutions

Some Congolese are reportedly expressing outrage after learning that more than $1.3 billion have been embezzled under President Joseph Kabila's administration. The monies were allegedly stolen or lost in corruption and mismanagement of government agencies and state-run businesses. President Kabila's government assured Congolese Wednesday that it has instituted an investigation and would punish the perpetrators behind the scandal.

The government adds that those found guilty will be asked to reimburse stolen money and could face possible prison sentences. But some political observers dismissed the government's announcement as a farce after previous investigations into various levels of corruption within the administration was reportedly covered up. From the capital, Kinshasa, Congolese businessman Victor Ngnezayo tells reporter Peter Clottey that most Congolese are fed up with ongoing corruption within government agencies.

"I understand there has been $1.3 billion of embezzlement of public funds and from public enterprises. These are major enterprises… and a few others and these were discoveries that happened during the period probably a couple or several years," Ngnezayo pointed out.

He said some Congolese are skeptical about the commitment of President Kabila's government to rid state institutions of graft.

"I think the immediate reaction is how serious the government is taking this, and the question that is immediately brought up is will they (government) actually apply the necessary sanctions for the managers of these public enterprises. You are aware that so far, there has been total lack of accountability. But if this is the beginning, people would be grateful for it because this is the major problem, lack of accountability in our country," he said.

Ngnezayo said most people are doubtful of the assurances from President Kabila's government.

"They (Congolese) will only believe it if this investigation goes as far as making the same audit in the government, in the public enterprises at the presidential office, in parliament and in the senate," Ngnezayo noted.

He said some people are worried those found to have been complicit in corruption allegations would not be punished.

"That is the fear all of us have. In the previous investigations, no real sanctions have been taken, and our fear is that even now the public authorities could cover up," he said.

Ngnezayo said ordinary Congolese do not feel their views matter.

"There is very little the ordinary man on the street can do because the government doesn't serve the people's purpose, and they are not ready to listen to the man on the street, but the man on the street is suffering from all these. And we would like to have a major change in the management of public funds and the management of the natural and human resources," Ngnezayo pointed out.

Meanwhile, President Kabila's government said the investigation only covered the period in 2006 and 2007 when there was a transitional government that included former rebels, the civilian opposition and members of civil society. The government claims that it has opened disciplinary proceedings against 53 people believed to be responsible for various cases of corruption.