Monday, March 30, 2009

APRM CONTINENTAL SECRETARIAT TROUBLES: A SPECIAL REPORT

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By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
March 29, 2009

Exactly a month ago, I wrote an article on the APRM warning of the dangers that some members of the Panel of Eminent Persons and even Heads of State had exposed it to. At that time, I warned that Africa had reason to worry that the once much talked about APRM was fast losing its glamour. Its architects were busy mutilating it.
At that time I stated that first, President Obasanjo had soiled its reputation after being its founder chairman for years then went ahead to rig the Nigerian elections.

That Thabo Mbeki had also attempted to present a fake national report to the AU summit after his government wrote the report against the protocols of the APRM. Mbeki has since been removed from office for abuse of power- a cardinal sin in Africa why the APRM was formed in the first place.

One of the first three countries to undergo the process was Kenya. Now it has emerged that neither Kenya nor the rest of the continent has ever learnt anything from the process. Kenya’s 2007 elections were rigged as usual. The violence that followed; a sure proof of bad governance caught the world by surprise but not unexpected. Today, high stakes public corruption cases are the order of the day in Kenya.

Ghana; that heralded example of the APRM process has also fallen by the wayside. The much acclaimed John Kufuor tried to do a “419” on Ghanaians just a day before he left office. He got a Parliamentary Sub Committee to approve his exit package far beyond Ghanaian means and five times more than an American retiring president can take. In the end, angry Ghanaians called him a thieving president!

At that time, I argued that this taxing and expensive mechanism was aimed at encouraging the adoption of policies, standards and practices for promoting political stability, high economic growth, sustainable development and accelerated sub-regional and continental integration.

It was supposed to achieve these goals through the sharing of experiences and consolidation of the best practices and achievements, including identification of the weaknesses and assessments of needs in the area of capacity building.
It was meant to pluck Africa from the dungeon of corruption, undemocratic rule and mismanagement of national resources. It was supposed to improve the lives of the people of this continent.

The principles adopted by the founders stipulated that, any review carried out in the framework of the Mechanism was to be carried out on the basis of technical skills, be credible and devoid of any political manipulation.

Concerning the staff in charge of the review, the document specified that APRM activities be conducted and managed by a group of 7 eminent African persons. Members of the group would be Africans with proven experience in the APRM focus areas, be of high moral integrity with proof of their commitment to the ideals of Pan-Africanism.

Now, as we grappled with rumors that the Ethiopian Government’s report, whose Prime Minister is the current APRM Chairman, was doctored before being presented to the APRM Summit, another bombshell was dropped from the West African Coast regarding the inappropriate activities involving a Head of State and a member of the APRM Panel!
Two newspapers; Le Quotidien of Senegal and Le Matinal of Benin detailed the gory exploits of one Marie Angelique Savane who, until December 2008 was a Panel Member of the Eminent Persons leading the team that assessed Benin’s process.

The two papers, from two neighboring countries wrote about this incident in November and December 2008 and challenged their readers to judge for themselves whether Mrs. Savané, in her practices, complied with the APRM rules of engagement.
When contacted to confirm or deny the allegations leveled against her, she avoided the press like a plague.

However, the Beninese newspaper, Le Matinal went ahead and revealed some unangelic acts of Marie Angélique Savané, wife of Landing Savané, Minister of State in Abdoulaye Wade’s government. Mrs. Savané, a panel member in charge of the Benin APRM Country Review, was accused of bleeding Benin’s public funds, specifically the budget of the Marina Presidential Palace, where she was registered as an Advisor to the President of the Benin Republic, Yayi Boni.

Le Matinal issue of November 28, 2008, wrote that Mrs. Savané, in charge of the review of the Republic of Benin, was effectively paid from the national budget. The report added that she was rewarded “For the good and loyal services rendered to top government authorities”.

Appointed to assess the management of public resources in Benin and paid for this mission by APRM Secretariat in South Africa, Mrs. Savané, according to Le Matinal, also received from the State of Benin, housing allowances, subscription to a pension scheme and several other allowances.

Journalist Jean-Christophe Houngbo of Benin, in reference to the Budget of the Presidency to the National Assembly of Benin, revealed that Mrs. Marie Angélique Savané, although a Panel Member of APRM, managed to get quickly appointed as a Special Adviser to President Yayi Boni with a salary index of 1,100 acquired as of 1st January 2008. For her new status, Mrs. Angélique Marie Savané was paid a gross monthly salary of US $8000.00 effective 1st January 2008. Her monthly subscription to a pension scheme amounted to US$ 1102.00 per month with a monthly housing allowance of US$ 800 for a residence she did not have in Benin

These were not the only favors enjoyed by the Panel Member of the African Peer Review Mechanism. In fact, another chapter entitled “Various Allowances” was opened for her and estimated at US$ 4000.00 per month, according to Le Matinal of 28 November 2008.

The Beninese journalist further reported that, Mrs. Angélique Marie Savané, who was already highly paid for her work in the Republic of Benin by APRM, also received from the Presidency of Cotonou a constraint allowance of US $ 1800.00 per month. Another budget for “accommodation” was opened for her by the cantors of Change to the tune of US $ 500.00 per day.

These facts, revealed by the Beninese press, were taken from a document presented to the Palais des Gouverneurs in Porto-Novo in November 2008, entitled, “National Budget -2008 Management-Nominative Status of the number present as of 1st January 2008”.

This document of which Le Quotidien managed to obtain a copy, mentioned that she had been receiving a fixed monthly allowance of US $ 800.00 since 1st January 2008, water allowance of US $ 900 and telephone allowance of US$ 500.00.

According to journalist Jean Christophe Houngbo of Benin, the irregularities committed by the APRM Panel member had for weeks preoccupied members of the National Assembly of Benin yet Mrs. Savane was not an employee of the State of Benin.

This case was likely to cause a lot of stir in Benin, according to the Benin daily newspaper Le Matinal. Media reports already indicated that Beninese MPs across the political divide wanted to have more information about this case. It seemed that plans were underway to arrest the Minister of Finance, Soulé Mana Lawani, and his colleague of the Public Action Assessment Ministry, Pascal Irénée Koupaki, for these shameful irregularities during these times of serious economic crisis.

Now the question to ask is this: How credible are these APRM assessments across the continent when some of the eminent panel members themselves are not so eminent, let alone Heads of State who would like to manipulate their country reports?
The staff and international stakeholders are raising alarm at increasing poor governance practices currently dogging the APRM Secretariat in South Africa.

However, before the dust settled on Savane's Benin case, an even more explosive scandal has broken out in the Secretariat in South Africa. This time round, it involves the very Chairman of the APRM Panel of Eminent Persons, Professor Adebayo Adedeji of Nigeria.

Reports from the Secretariat staff indicate that there is rampant plunder of the Secretariat funds by the Chairman who has decided to be the Chief Executive of the Secretariat taking advantage of the vacuum left by Dr. Bernard Kouassi several months ago.

The staff believes that there must have been a secret pact between Adedeji and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia who is the current APRM Forum Chairman.
In exchange, Adedeji took over the review of Ethiopia from Bethwel Kiplagat of Kenya without offering any explanation to Panel members or the Secretariat staff. They speculate he promised Zenawi a favorable report due in June 2009.

Nigerian Prof Adedeji’s tenure as the Panel Chair was bad enough before it was unprocedurally extended by the current APRM Summit chairman, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The CEO’s absence has enabled Adedeji to interfere with the operations of the APRM Secretariat to the extent that he is able to run the affairs of the APRM Secretariat from his village in Nigeria.

It is alleged that the biggest casualty are the staff who he has decided to terminate their contracts by March 31, 2009 except for his fellow Nigerian national; one Afeikhena Jerome who has become his spymaster on the ground.

The professor has usurped the powers of the Ethiopian that Meles appointed to act as the CEO while the AU was looking for suitable replacement for Kouassi.

According to reports coming from the Secretariat; Adedeji’s design is to pack the institution with fellow Nigerians considering that he was vehemently opposed to the appointment of a very qualified Ghanaian to the Panel of Eminent Persons; never mind that his term expired more that a year ago.

He has also effectively frustrated the appointment of Dr. Graca Machel as his deputy despite the Panel electing her to that position
Now he has planted one belligerent Nigerian called Jerome to run the place instead of Zenawi’s appointee as part of the takeover scheme of the institution by Adedeji and his cronies.

To accomplish their scheme, Adedeji and Jerome have developed a new structure for the institution with more bureaucratic layers than ever before that they intend to give Meles for tabling at the next APRM Summit. In this design, Adedeji is suggesting a new office called the AU Office for APRM at the AU Secretariat in Addis Ababa.

At a glance this office will serve no better purpose except to increase bureaucracy and cut off the Panel of Eminent Persons from interacting directly with the APRM Forum as is presently the case.

The bigger casualty will be the Chief Executive who will this time be five ladders down the line from the AU Heads of State and Government.
Curiously, Adedeji is suggesting that the post of current Executive Director be renamed Director General and upgraded to the level of AU Commissioner.

The ambiguity here is simple; either Adedeji is silently campaigning to be appointed the first holder of the AU Office for APRM however, should he fail to get it; he can always be considered for the Post of Director General with AU Commissioner perks for at least two years before some hawkeyed Head of State like President Abdulahi Wade detects the ploy and forces him into retirement.

To date, of the original Panel Members, Bethwel Kiplagat of Kenya is leaving or has already left. He will be replaced by Mrs Domitila Mukantaganwa of Rwanda. She is a former head of Gacaca Courts.

Dr. Dorothy Njeuma of Cameroon ‘s term has also expired while the controversial Angelique Savani was forced out much earlier even before Dr. Kouassi left the Secretariat.

Incidentally, the Ghanaian whom Adedeji referred to derogatively as a mere reverend is perhaps many times more qualified and more morally fit to be on the panel than Adedeji and several other former Panel members.

For starters, Dr. Kwadwo Agyampong is the current chairman of the National APRM Governing Council of Ghana, one of the earliest and most successful APRM programmes in the continent. He is currently the President of the Methodist University of Ghana, a Professor of Physics and a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast in Ghana.

The tragedy of all these intrigues is that as of now, Adedeji has unilaterally sacked the entire staff at the secretariat in a recent circular that nullified their appointments and asked them to reapply for the new positions that that are yet to be ratified by the AU organs.

The question is; how can an Internal Auditor and the Director of Finance & Admin be working directly under the office of the Chief Executive without experiencing accountability difficulties?

This arrangement is a recipe for gross mismanagement of the Secretariat’s resources.
If today Adedeji is travelling First Class from Abuja to Johannesburg via London with a week’s, spends two weeks in London at the expense of the APRM, prepares and approves his own travel expenses as is common knowledge now before he takes full control; what will it be after he takes over?

As it is, Adedeji is busy hopping from one APRM country after another promising Heads of State to name their nationals to the Panel. The truth is; he wants to
recruit people who don’t know his background and will never say no to his plans.

Right now every trip he makes gets paid for by both the Secretariat and host countries. On his return he has refused to surrender the imprest as is the regulation. This behavior has put him at loggerheads with the UNDP, the managers of APRM trust funds. He wants UNDP out of APRM funds management.

With his bill of R 6000 per night in bed and breakfast alone excluding his other expenses; it will not be long before the bubble bursts.

The truth is, Adedeji’s tenure even now has sent wrong signals to Development Partners and soon no donor will be funding the APRM secretariat.

Again once the Member States get to grasp what is going on; chances are that annual contributions will be hard to come by; thanks to Prime Minister Meles Zenawi for giving one Professor Adedeji a rope with which to hang the APRM.

jerryokungu@gmail.com
www.africanewsonline.blogspot.com

1 comments:

NEPAD Kenya Secretariat said...
April 3, 2009 at 10:53 AM  

In his profile, Mr. Jerry Okungu claims that he is “currently a consultant on Media and Communications for NEPAD Kenya Secretariat,” and that he is “running a programme that retrains African journalists across the continent on refocussing on African Affairs. This programme is under the auspices of the Nepad Kenya Secretariat in partnership with CIDA-CANADA Fund For Africa”.

NEPAD Kenya Secretariat would like to clarify that Mr. Okungu worked as a consultant under the above-mentioned project of the NEPAD Kenya Secretariat with CIDA-Canada. This project ended with the organization of an Eastern Africa Journalism Forum from 16th to 20st March, 2008 in Arusha, Tanzania. Thus, Mr. Okungu’s affiliation with NEPAD Kenya Secretariat ended in March 2008.