DRCongo leader vows to take on corruption

DRCongo leader vows to take on corruption

President Felix Tshisekedi vowed Friday to tackle corruption in the Democratic Republic of Congo but remained vague on details or propositions as he addressed lawmakers and party faithful in Kinshasa.

"I am aware of persistent corrupt practices and the existence of massive fraud networks," Tshisekedi said in his first state-of-the-nation speech before parliament.

"These networks will be dismantled. I will be unflinching in the fight against corruption," he added after the European Union, IMF and civil societies voiced concern this week over those issues.

Tshisekedi reiterated that message a second time at the request of members of his UDPS party, next to deputies and senators who for the most part had been allies of former president Joseph Kabila.

But aside from a "business climate cell" to take on "fiscal harassment" of business owners, and a previously announced "agency to change mentalities," the new president was vague on the details of the fight against corruption.

He called for the creation of "a special jurisdiction to fight tax fraud, money laundering and embezzlement of public funds."

Tshisekedi, who took office in January, has vowed to enact sweeping reforms and root out corruption in the strife-torn, poor but mineral-rich central African country.

Present in the parliament Friday was the president's cabinet director Vital Kamerhe, one of four people cited by the country's General Finance Inspection in a report on $15 million that is missing from the public treasury.

In August, prosecutors said they had launched an investigation but nothing has come of it so far.

The anti-corruption drive is aimed at defending the 2020 budget which has swollen from $5.5 billion this year to an estimated $10.2 billion.

IMF mission director Philippe Egoume was quoted by the Bloomberg News agency as saying Friday: "It's very rare for a country to be able to increase its revenue 50-60 percent from one year to the next."

The IMF wants to help DRCongo strengthen its legislation to fight money laundering and corruption, Egoume told AFP.

On Monday, the European Union also offered to help DR Congo deal with "persistent corruption, money laundering, property rights violations and embezzlement of public funds."

The country was 161 out of 180 on the Transparency International corruption perceptions index released in January 2019.