Senegal admitted yesterday that it gave a “money gift” to an International Monetary Fund official earlier this month at the end of his three-year posting, citing an African tradition of offering goodbye presents.
The gift, which the IMF said amounted to €100 000 (R1 million) and $50 000 (R379 000), was returned within days by IMF representative Alex Segura, who had been an outspoken critic of the West African nation’s budget process during his posting.
“We in Africa have a tradition: when someone visits you, you give him a gift at departure,” Senegalese Prime Minister Souleymane Ndene Ndiaye told state media.
Segura was given the present after a dinner with Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, but did not discover the gift was money until he was about to leave the country for Barcelona, the IMF said in a statement.
“With Mr. Segura worried about missing his flight, and concerned that there was no place to leave the money safely in Senegal, he decided to take the money aboard the plane,” the IMF said.
Once in Spain, Segura informed the IMF, which contacted Senegalese authorities to arrange a handover of the cash.
Senegal’s ambassador to Spain then collected the money.
Local media dubbed the affair “Seguragate” in a nod to the US political scandal Watergate that led to the downfall of President Richard Nixon.
“What happened with Segura can’t be labelled corruption. Mr Segura had ended his mission,” Ndiaye said.
Senegal’s government had initially denied giving the money.
The country’s civil society has called for an independent investigation.
The IMF last December approved a $75.6 million (R573 million), one-year funding deal for Senegal from its Exogenous Shocks Facility to mitigate the effects of last year’s surge in food and energy prices.