“Leyisa punda, punda a leyisa yo”: What has the Go-pass been used for over the past 10 years?
Where did the $225 million or more generated between March 2009 and December 2019 by the Go-Pass go? It's hard to get a clear picture today of how the fee, officially called the Infrastructure Development Fund (Idef), was used. For the past 12 years, the Idef was established to provide the financially unbalanced Congolese Airways Authority (Régie des voies aériennes, RVA) with the necessary funds to develop the country's airport infrastructure.
The Congo Research Group (CRG) published this report to provide an overview of the opaque management of the Idef. CRG conducted research between April 2019 and February 2021. Researchers accessed and combed through RVA accounting documents, Court of Accounts and donor reports, and several administrative correspondences pertaining to Idef. They also interviewed 97 different sources within and outside the RVA and they found that the funds generated by the Go-pass were diverted from their original purposes. More than $37 million in royalties collected in the first two years was allocated to the construction of the presidential pavilion alone at N'Djili airport, reserved exclusively for the head of state and senior officials.
RVA also contributed at least $6.5 million generated by the Idef to Congo Airways between July 2015 and December 2017 as an equity investment. Several other millions collected were used to pay RVA staff.
It is difficult to know exactly how the remaining money was used because of the lack of transparency. This lack of transparency benefits those in political power who still have a stranglehold on the company: in order to remain in office, public officials must pay them, following the saying "leyisa punda, punda a leyisa yo (feed the horse so that the horse will feed you). The persistent dubious practices and lack of transparency have not deterred international donors, notably the African Development Bank (AfDB), and private banks from making significant grants and loans to the RVA.
In fact, the case of RVA is just one illustration of the failure of the process of reforming public enterprises, initiated in 2009 by the Congolese state. Opacity and lack of accountability have become structural in most Congolese public enterprises that have been transformed into commercial companies.
[ Read the full report (French): ‘Leyisa punda, punda a leyisa yo’: What has the Go-pass been used for over the past 10 years? ]