Sahel: the essential, more virtuous governance of defense budgets

The recent revelations relating to the management of defense budgets in certain Sahelian countries remind us, if it were still necessary, of the need not to conceive of security management under the exclusive prism of operations carried out on the ground. To be more efficient, the defense and security sector also needs democratic governance. It is reassuring to note that, today, certain actors, too often neglected when it comes to dealing with security issues, now dare to seize their role in terms of supervision and control of the security sector. security, sometimes shy but more and more assertive.

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Hijackings revealed in Niger

Foremost among these actors are first of all the inspection services of the armed forces which exercise an internal control function within the defense and security institutions. In this regard, the case revealed in Niger by the audit of February 17, 2020 carried out by the General Inspectorate of Armies on orders placed by the Ministry of Defense is particularly eloquent.

This document, entitled “Report on the a posteriori control of public contracts at the Ministry of Defense”, revealed that 76 billion CFA francs (116 million euros) were misappropriated between 2014 and 2019. Lhe overcharges represent 48.3 billion CFA francs (66 million euros) and the amounts for undelivered equipment amount to 27.8 billion FCFA (42 million euros) details revealed by the Mondafrique website. Twelve companies (including several fictitious) are cited in this damning report which details contracts deemed fraudulent by army inspectors. The audit thus highlights dozens of contracts have not been honored, while suppliers have been partially or fully paid for the goods and services ordered.

For example, the Ministry of Defense thus signed in 2017 a contract with Renault Trucks for the delivery of equipment for an amount of 25 billion CFA francs, 2.5 of which would have been diverted, while a contract for 17 billion spent with Toyota would have been overcharged by 4.4 billion between 2017 and 2019: the names of these two companies were obviously usurped by Nigerien companies.

Are also denounced the purchase of vehicles (trucks, armored vehicles and spare parts), the construction of hangars and military buildings, the acquisition of runway lighting and lighting equipment, contracts for the maintenance of helicopters MI-35, or the market for the purchase of a anti-missile protection system for the presidential plane – concluded in 2015 but never installed on the device while false delivery slips and a receipt report were been found.

It also appears that extrabudgetary funding, relating to funds for external operations and partner funding, could not be examined by the inspectors because they were not subject to public procurement procedures.

In addition, the inspectors were worried about the anarchic management by the Ministry of Defense of the delivery of certificates to final recipients, documents used in international transfers of arms and ammunition (including those provided as aid) to certify that the purchaser is the ultimate recipient of the materials and does not plan to transfer them to another party.

Scheduled prosecutions

This report was sent in February to the President of the Republic of Niger. The Minister of Defense himself expressed his indignation at these embezzlements in a private conversation, the content of which was made public without his knowledge. However, the Nigerien government initially stated its intention to prosecute the perpetrators of the hijackings within an administrative framework and to limit itself to asking for the reimbursement of the siphoned sums.

A second audit report, dated March 29, thus evokes negotiations between the authorities and the suppliers concerned Under pressure, the authorities finally forwarded the file to Nigerien justice on April 7, 2020. The conditions for the award, execution and payment of 177 files are in fact liable to criminal qualification, since they violate in particular Decree No. 2013-570 / PRN / PM of December 20, 2013 relating to specific procedures for the award of works contracts , equipment, supplies and services related to national defense and security needs.

This case, now heard by thehe public prosecutor at the Niamey Court of First Instance Hors Classe, could result in charges of forgery and misuse and forgery and embezzlement of public funds.

The beneficiaries of the fraud identified

The main beneficiaries of the fraud identified for the time being are Hima Aboubacar, known as “Petit Boubé” – billionaire, husband of the daughter of former president Baré Maïnassara, whose company BRIDGE AT DEFCON won more than 75% of the contracts from the Department of National Defense and that accounts for almost 40% of the overcharges questioned by the auditors – and Aboubacar Charfo, which from 2014 to 2018 captured nearly 58 billion CFA francs in markets, including 14.5 billion overbilled and almost 4 billion undelivered. The chief of staff of the air force, colonel Boulama Issa Zana Boukar, was dismissed and replaced by his assistant, after a meeting of the High Defense Council: according to some sources, there is a link with the embezzlement case.

In Mali, the Office of the Auditor General moved the lines

Supreme Audit Institutions (Cour des comptes and equivalents), placed outside the hierarchical chain of administration, are other actors who seek to assert their prerogatives in terms of monitoring public management and the regularity of expenditure defense and security. In Mali, the Office of the Auditor General (VEGAL), created in 2003 to combat corruption, mismanagement and economic and financial crime, played a major role in launching investigations into the matter, although the Public Procurement Code significantly limits its interventions in the field of security and defense. In 2014, VEGAL drew up a report on the verification of compliance and performance of the acquisition of an aircraft and the supply to the Malian Armed Forces (FAMa) of clothing, sleeping, camping and supply, as well as vehicles and spare parts, involving an agreement between the Ministry of Defense and Veterans Affairs (MDAC) and the company GUO-Star.

As Transparency International recalls, this VEGAL report noted a number of points of non-compliance essentially relating to the choice of the intermediary in the targeted acquisitions and the terms of market financing. Former Prime Minister Soumaylou Boubeye Maïga, who had previously been Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs, had to react to this document after his resignation: the former Prime Minister had thus notably invoked, to contest the legality of the verification, secrecy and defense and article 8 of the Public Procurement Code which stipulates that all contracts liable to secrecy are exempt from the control of the Auditor, a provision which relates to the control of the purchase of military equipment and defense armaments.

However, despite his public statements, Soumaylou Boubeye Maïga had answered VEGAL’s questions – as evidenced byAnnex No. 22 to the report of the financial institution relating the interview – and had mentioned in particular the role played in the transactions by the former Minister in charge of the Budget, the former Minister of the Economy and the former Minister in in charge of Investments.

Creation of a Special Parliamentary Inquiry Commission in Mali

Parliaments are other actors whose intervention can be crucial in terms of budgetary control of defense and security spending, when they are not paralyzed by the existence of overwhelmingly acquired majorities in the executive sphere. The case of Mali also offers an interesting example here. Indeed, following a request from the parliamentary opposition, the National Assembly adopted on October 5, 2019 a resolution establishing a Special Parliamentary Inquiry Commission to conduct investigations into the facts of embezzlement and financial embezzlement in the defense sector.

In a letter to the President of the National Assembly, Soumaila Cissé, then leader of the opposition and member of the National Assembly (kidnapped since, in March 2020, in the middle of the campaign for his re-election), had indeed asked that a parliamentary investigation be carried out into facts constituting crimes of corruption, embezzlement of public funds, favoritism, forgery and use of forgery, trading in influence, illicit enrichment and failure to assist persons in danger .

These include the purchase of the presidential aircraft, the purchase of military equipment, the purchase and repair of PUMA helicopters, the purchase of SUPER TUCANO aircraft and the training of pilots at exorbitant prices. The facts complained of were deemed likely to constitute breaches of criminal law and of public procurement procedures. The term of this Special Commission of Inquiry, composed of 15 deputies, had been fixed at two months. Although its work has not been successful, it is important to mention this initiative, which testifies to the efforts of the parliamentary institution as a whole to exercise the powers conferred on it by the Constitution, beyond the sole prerogatives of the Commission. National Defense, Security and Civil Protection (CDNSPC).

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Civil society is also involved in Niger…

Civil society organizations have also demonstrated in these cases the active role that they can play in matters of public oversight of the defense and security sector, through their advocacy and arrest actions.

In Niger, opposition and civil society organized demonstrations to demand of the government the publication of the audit report of the Ministry of National Defense and its transmission to justice. According to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), three people died and several demonstrators, including eight civil society leaders, were arrested during these public protests on March 15, 2020, that had been banned as part of Covid-19 prevention.

Other managers of civil society also expressed themselves on social networks, like the opponent Ibrahim Bana, arrested before being released, because of his allegations relating to the fraudulent use of End User Certificates “E.U.C. “, who can raise fears, according to him, of deliveries of equipment, including heavy weapons (missiles), to people or groups outside the State of Niger, who could not make these purchases in their own name on the international market.

In addition, the organization “Alternative Espace Citoyen” (AEC) called on the authorities to shed light on the embezzlement within the Ministry of Defense, indignant that “hundreds of Nigeriens have lost their lives in theaters of operations (anti-jihadists) while some are in air-conditioned offices embezzling billions of CFA francs”.

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… In Mali and Burkina also

In Mali, the Platform against Corruption and Unemployment and the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations for the Fight against Corruption and Poverty in Mali (COSCLCCP) for their part carried out an active campaign to protest against the fraudulent practices that occurred in the purchase of military equipment and materials intended for FAMas, initially denounced by the audit reports of the Office of the Auditor General.

Finally, it is also the mobilization of civil society that is behind the arrest in Burkina Faso of the former Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Jean-Claude Bouda. Hearing after a complaint by the National Anti-Corruption Network (REN-LAC) for illicit enrichment, Jean-Claude Bouda was directly transferred on Tuesday May 26, 2020 to the Ouagadougou remand and correctional center. Mr. Bouda is being prosecuted for “forgery and use of forgeries, money laundering and appearance crimes”.

The REN-LAC complaint was filed after the dissemination on social networks in December 2018 of photos of a very luxurious villa, worth an estimated half a billion CFA francs (530,000 euros), whose property was assigned to Jean-Claude Bouda. However, REN-LAC noted that the acquisition of this real estate did not appear in the declaration of property of the former minister when he was appointed to the government, while the resources he subsequently declared could not have allowed him such an acquisition.

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Serious shortcomings have been identified …

These various cases remind us that the procedures for controlling the security and defense expenditure of French-speaking African countries have suffered so far from a large number of shortcomings:

  • first, the security and defense sectors are not sufficiently integrated into the government’s budget management process. Too often, the ministries of defense are not concerned, as are other public administrations, by sectoral and strategic planning, allocation of resources by sector, review of performance over the past year and rationalized use. Resource. The generally recognized principles of budgetary control are: discipline, transparency, responsibility, predictability and contestability. The preparation of defense and security budgets, as well as their execution, too rarely respect the legal and regulatory procedures arising from these principles.
  • In addition, the low involvement of civil institutions in the defense and security budgeting process also explains the frequent failures. Civilians are in fact too little involved in the budget process of the security and defense sectors, both in terms of budgeting and execution and control.
  • Finally, the excessive degree of confidentiality surrounding defense and security matters is another explanatory factor. It is too often admitted that, due to the sensitivity of the issues, the security and defense sectors differ from other segments of the public sector. The highly political nature of certain expenditure naturally places a particular constraint on the security sector: the need to guarantee the confidentiality of most budgetary information, so as not to endanger national security. However, this imperative of confidentiality (which should in no way be confused with the notion of “secret” often abusively invoked) cannot justify the absence of supervision of the security sector or of adherence to the principles of public expenditure management mentioned above. Confidentiality does not imply the absence of democratic accountability: it only involves appropriate authorization systems and procedures for consulting the legislative sphere and other supervisory bodies, including supreme audit institutions.

… Which can harm the strength of international solidarity…

Worryingly, the various cases that have arisen in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso are more or less likely to undermine the many calls made by their leaders for the international community to increase the assistance it provides them with defense and security, to help them fight jihadist groups in particular. France’s efforts to broaden support for the new “Coalition for the Sahel”, which was announced at the Pau Summit on January 13, 2020, are also likely to suffer from these revelations. A member of the French National Assembly also questioned the Ministry of the Armed Forces, regarding the irregularities noted in Niger, which were particularly unfortunate according to her in the context of military cooperation between the two countries.

Even more seriously, the revelations about these various embezzlements come as elements of the armed forces of the three Sahelian countries fall almost daily into battle in the fight between them and jihadist and criminal groups. However, these forces sometimes sorely lack adequate material and logistical means.

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… And even the defense and security forces

The use for other purposes of the funds intended to equip the defense and security forces so that they can ensure the defense of the institutions and the integrity of the State as well as the protection of the populations everywhere on the national territory is assimilable for some to an act of high treason. It is in fact the military institutions themselves and their personnel who are the first to be harmed, while their reputation is once again severely damaged.

It is above all the soldiers who die on the front lines who are betrayed by these practices, as the message addressed to the judge in charge of the file of financial embezzlement within the Niger Ministry of Defense recalls, as scathingly as poignant. Irkoy-Tamo, mortally wounded on May 18, 2020, had the strength to write before dying on a paper stained with blood: “Your Honor, here, a soldier is dead, on a mission for the Republic; he wants neither military honors, nor tears and lamentations. Like all those who died before him, in Diffa, Tillabéry, Tahoua and elsewhere, he wishes only one thing: to be reassured that you too, you will accomplish your mission with dignity, and will build a solid case against those who transformed this war in business. “

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A few words about Dr Niagalé Bagayoko

Niagalé Bagayoko holds a doctorate in political science (specializing in international relations) from the Institut d’Études Politiques in Paris. He specializes in reforming security systems in French-speaking Africa, international security policies in sub-Saharan Africa, and than African conflict management mechanisms. She was a researcher at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex (United Kingdom) and directed the Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding Program of the International Organization of La Francophonie from 2010 to 2015 .

Dr Niagalé Bagayoko, president of the African Security Sector Network (ASSN), believes that the internal control of the Defense and Security Forces should be strengthened and their knowledge and awareness of human rights issues improved.
© DR

After being a senior expert for the African Security Sector Network (ASSN), she has held the position of President since May 2018. The African Security Sector Network is a pan-African network of experts and organizations working in the field of security sector reform. Founded in 2003, the network is headquartered in Accra, Ghana, with regional centers in Juba, Nairobi and Johannesburg, and a smaller office attached to the African Union, in Addis Ababa. It aims to facilitate progress towards the achievement of effective and democratically governed security sectors across Africa.

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