Congo spent seven-times over budget on Francophone Games – minister

By Sonia Rolley and Ange Kasongo

(Reuters) – Democratic Republic of Congo spent $324 million, or seven times as much as planned, to host the delay-plagued International Francophone Games in July, Finance Minister Nicolas Kazadi said.

The Games, which are held every four years with the aim of promoting the French language, were pushed back two years from 2021 to bring infrastructure up to international standards.

Even with the extra time, Congo was scrambling to finish tracks, sports stadiums and accommodation for athletes with just weeks to go before the July 28 start date – a rush that Kazadi said contributed to the substantial cost overruns.

“The people tasked with doing the work were not as efficient as expected,” he told reporters on Saturday, adding that there were also planning issues.

Responding to the minister’s comments, the games’ director Isidore Kwandja Ngembo said his committee had only been responsible for part of the budget and he did not know about the $324 million.

“Who disbursed these sums of money? To whom was it given? Who managed them?,” he told Reuters by phone.

He said his committee had agreed a budget for its activities of around $66 million, but that it had not received the full amount with some employees and service providers still waiting for payment.

The Congolese authorities and organisers have faced public criticism over the handling of preparations for the games and their cost.

The huge over-spend is concerning and should be investigated, said Jean-Claude Mputu, spokesperson for anti-corruption watchdog Congo Is Not For Sale.

“It is a trend that we are seeing more and more in all institutions and it is to the detriment of the population and it is worrying for the future of the country,” he said by phone.

(Writing by Alessandra Prentice; editing by Giles Elgood)