Renovating Universities in DRC: Is RAM tax money being misappropriated?

The Court of Auditors has started an investigation into the dossier related to the renovation of several universities in the country. Officially, about $120 million is being invested by the government based on money collected through the RAM tax. ACTUALITE.CD found that the same group of businessmen are the main beneficiaries of these markets, even though they win through tender announcements.

Officially, two separate consortia have won the university renovation contracts in response to limited calls for tenders launched by Higher and University Education (ESU) Minister Muhindo Nzangi. But ACTUALITE.CD found them to be strangely connected.

The first consortium consists of three companies – Building Blocks Sarl, ZS Africa Solutions Sarl and Société Probuild Sarl – and won about US$72 million in government contracts for works at UPN, INBTP and Bunia University. The latter also consists of three companies – ONE Builders Sarl, SRP Construction Sarl and Xin Wha Sarl. This second consortium received about US$48 million in government funds for work at Mbuji-Mayi Official University and Kananga University. All these projects are financed by the controversial RAM tax, which was stopped on February 20, 2022 after months of public protest.

But these two consortia have a hidden point in common: Jérôme Stanislas J. Spaey. On November 1, 2019, this Belgian businessman created the company 5C Energy and in less than a year will collect the RAM tax on behalf of the ARPTC. In October 2021, the government announced that more than 25 million funds had been collected. ODEP has already recorded a figure of more than 266 million, about 40% of which will not be included in the 2021 and 2022 budgets. However, several sources confirm that 5C Energy has kept more than a third of all these millions raised.

Although not known to the general public, Jérôme Stanislas J. Spaey is involved in the shares of several companies. We especially see him as the general manager of a company called Stofan in France. Its president is called Philips Sixte. Ironically, he is the founder and major shareholder of SRP Construction, one of the companies responsible for the renovation of Mbuji-Mayi and Kananga universities. This company was incorporated on September 7, 2021, less than six months before the limited tender. But this is not the only suspicious coincidence.

Jérôme Stanislas J. Spaey’s name also appears in the organizational chart of WOREX-EU, a construction company based in Slovakia. Among his partners is a certain Shmaya Shapiro. This Israeli is one of the co-founders of ZS Africa and with his consortium officially won the limited tender for work at UPN, INBTP and Bunia University. ZS Africa was established on March 10, 2021.

The Court of Auditors has launched an investigation to shed light on the scandal caused by the statements of President Tshisekedi’s sister-in-law and ARPTC member Isabelle Kibassa. While visiting the Mbuji-Mayi site, the latter was worried about not seeing the progress of the work he had invested millions in. Minister Muhindo Nzangi responded that the delay was only due to supply issues.

The Prosecutor General of the Court of Auditors, Mr. Tudieshe, in a statement dated January 6, announced the opening of “investigations” not only for Mbuji-Mayi, but also for the construction and rehabilitation of Mbuji universities.-Mayi, Kananga, Bunia, UPN, as well as INBTP in Kinshasa- from (National Institute of Construction and Public Works). He says he did this based on the information he brought to his “knowledge” of the Congolese, without specifying the content.

This does not bother ESU Minister Muhindo Nzangi. “It is a routine thing to be done when there are government procurement documents. He will submit his report to the Milli Majlis, which will conduct inspections. This is normal,” said Muhindo Nzangi during the press briefing of the Ministry of Communications and Media on January 11.

How much did the 5C Energy get for its RAM money and is it justified? How much of the nearly $120 million earmarked for renovating the nation’s universities will ultimately be affected by Jerome Stanislas J. Spaey’s partners? Are these funds being used well to fulfill the Congolese State’s mandate? How can one explain that the same business network won all the tender calls for the RAM tax? There are so many questions for the Court of Auditors to answer.

Other elements may concern this public finance police. Probuild Sarl, a member of the consortium responsible for the works in Kinshasa and Bunia, was already suspected of embezzling public funds in 2020, along with nine other companies, as part of a management investigation by the Matete General Prosecutor’s Office. and implementation of the work of the emergency program of the first 100 days of the head of state. But there was no continuation.

Indian businessmen Sajid and Rahim Dhrolia, shareholders of A One Builders, a consortium responsible for the renovation of universities in the Kasai region, have been cited by the Congolese Hold-up investigation on suspicion of money laundering. They completely denied everything.

Jordan Mayenikini and Sonia Rolley

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