Top DRC finance man questioned


The head of Democratic Republic of Congo’s public finances watchdog was detained for questioning for several hours, in what he said was retaliation for investigations by his office into spending by senior government officials.

Sylvain Kasongo, Kinshasa police chief, confirmed to Reuters Inspector General of Finances Victor Batubenga and a colleague were detained for several hours before being released.

He said the arrests were for “matters of common law”, but declined to elaborate.

Batubenga’s office is investigating a $100 million line of credit opened in May by the central bank at the instruction of the interim economy minister to reimburse fuel distributors, according to a report his office issued in July.

It was ordered by the National Intelligence Agency last month to audit spending by the interim government in place since President Felix Tshisekedi’s inauguration in January.

Since taking office, Tshisekedi promised to clean up corruption which he said proliferated during his predecessor Joseph Kabila’s 18-year tenure.

Civil society groups accuse his administration of profligate spending, charges he denies.

In an interview with Radio France Internationale, Batubenga said after he and a colleague were arrested by police, he was held by an aide to Tshisekedi’s national security advisor, Francois Beya.

“The aide said my work was causing problems,” Batubenga said. He said the aide threatened him and his family.

Neither Beya nor Tshisekedi’s spokesman could be immediately reached for comment.

The interim cabinet consists largely of holdovers from Kabila’s final government. New minister were named last week and are expected to be sworn in this week.

The report by Batubenga’s auditors in July found interim Economy Minister Henri Yav ordered 15% of a $100 million line of credit to be paid into a bank account controlled by the government committee monitoring fuel prices.

It said that money “did not benefit the state” and called on government to explain how it was used.

Yav was not immediately available for comment.

The intelligence agency’s order last month said the audit of government spending since January was required “for urgent reasons of state security”, without elaborating.