The World Bank has made the decision to suspend funding for humanitarian and development projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), valued at over $1 billion. The suspension comes in response to the sudden dissolution of the project fund by the Congolese government, catching the lender off guard. The move will have a significant impact on more than 600,000 beneficiaries, including victims of sexual violence, according to a letter sent by the World Bank to Congo’s finance minister.
The letter, dated May 12 and seen by Reuters, also highlighted that the World Bank is still awaiting documentation on the status of $91 million that had already been advanced for the projects out of the total $1.04 billion. On May 4, President Felix Tshisekedi dissolved the existing structure, known as the “Social Fund of the Democratic Republic of Congo,” through a presidential order and established a new public fund. President Tshisekedi cited the evolution of the legal framework governing public institutions as the reason behind this change.
Albert Zeufack, the World Bank’s director of operations for DR Congo, expressed the institution’s disappointment in learning about the decision through the press. Zeufack emphasized the need for the government and the World Bank to agree on transitional measures before project funds can be committed again. These measures are essential to ensure that the funds are used for their intended purposes.
In response to the suspension, a spokesperson for Congo’s finance ministry stated that they were awaiting authorization from the presidency before providing further comments. Meanwhile, the presidential spokesperson, Tina Salama, denied any suspension of funding and claimed that transitional management of the fund was being arranged. Salama did not address inquiries regarding the $91 million in question.
The abrupt decision to alter the financing structure has raised questions about governance issues in DR Congo. Valery Madianga, the director of a Congolese organization specializing in public finance auditing, criticized the lack of transparency and communication. He questioned how a public service, having signed a $1 billion program contract with the World Bank, could dissolve or change its social purpose without the lender’s knowledge.
In light of these developments, four of Congo’s main opposition politicians have written to the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank, requesting an audit of their funds in DR Congo due to suspicions of misuse.