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Senegal citizens protest against ‘misappropriation’ of COVID fund

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Hundreds of people protested in Senegal’s capital on Friday to call for legal action after a report by a public spending watchdog revealed alleged misuse of Covid relief funds, an AFP journalist saw.

Shouting slogans, the crowd heeded a call by about a dozen civil society organisations to demonstrate in a Dakar square.

Police were deployed around the square for the rally, which had been authorised by city officials and was supported by the opposition.

According to the public spending watchdog report seen by AFP earlier this month, a coronavirus pandemic relief fund in Senegal fell victim to alleged criminal offences and mismanagement.

President Macky Sall set up the fund, financed by the state and lenders, to strengthen the West African nation’s ailing health system during the crisis.

A watchdog audit of spending linked to the fund in 2020 and 2021 found that different ministries used around $30 million for matters unrelated to Covid-19, out of a total of more than $1.1 billion.

Among other findings, it also said a fraudulently inflated figure of around $4 million was used to buy and hand out rice to the poorest during lockdown, noting a lack of transparency in the purchases.

The government has sought to defend itself, saying the issues raised in the report concern less than one percent of the total amount of the fund and has promised to follow the watchdog’s recommendations.

The watchdog asked the justice ministry to open legal proceedings against at least 10 people, including officials in the ministries involved in the management of the coronavirus relief fund.

Source: AFP

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