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British Diplomat Questions DRC Government Spending

British Ambassador Graham Zebedee
British Ambassador Graham Zebedee

One of the biggest donors to the Democratic Republic of Congo is questioning how the DRC government is spending money. In a letter to a Congolese newspaper, the British ambassador to the DRC notes that in 2014, the last year for which there are figures, the government spent almost as much on parliament as it did on the country's entire health sector.

British Ambassador Graham Zebedee’s letter was published Tuesday in a Kinshasa newspaper.

In it, he says it’s an "uncomfortable fact" the basic services provided to the Congolese people are mainly funded by the Congolese people themselves, the diaspora, churches, non-governmental organizations, and foreign governments.

Official figures on how the DRC government’s 2014 budget was spent suggest that funding services was not its top priority.

Numbers breakdown

Quoting the letter, the ambassador’s deputy Jon Lambe repeated some of those figures.

"In 2014 the government spent almost as much for the parliament as for the health sector in the country, and 12 percent of the financial spending by the government went either on the presidency, the prime minister’s office or the parliament, which is as much as went to primary, secondary and technical education combined. Few other countries in the world are so dependent on outside assistance to meet the basic needs of their people," he said.

No one likes this situation, the letter continues, not the Congolese people and government, nor countries like the United Kingdom, who spend $550 million a year to build the Congolese state.

"We are proud to be the second largest development partner of the DRC, after the United States, and we fully align our spending with the strategies and priorities of the government. We are here for the long term, but no country can spend these large sums forever," said Lambe.

The letter says Prime Minister Matata Ponyo knows what is needed to lift the country out of poverty: encourage investment, collect more taxes more fairly and invest the revenue according to the country’s priorities.

It says the DRC must also ensure better coordination of international aid, pay public servants fully and on time, but ensure they do not use their positions for their own benefit. If state assets have to be sold, the letter says, do so for the benefit of the nation, not individuals.