According to documents consulted by Invest in Cameroon, the financial expert and ex-detainee, Michel Thierry Atangana, is in discussion with the Cameroonian authorities for the settlement of debts owed to French companies, within the framework of the Steering and Monitoring Committee. Road Works (Copisupr), was created in the early 1990s.
This Committee, which brings together French companies (Dumez, Socamat, EJL, ETPC, Jean Lefebvre, France Telecom, etc.), according to a note recently sent to the Presidency of the Republic, claims the payment of a debt today evaluated at 316.8 billion FCFA.
This debt, we learn, is made up of the nominal amount (26.4 billion FCFA), plus interest due to the delay caused by the administration in accordance with the regulation and final settlement agreement signed between the Republic of Cameroon, represented by the Minister of Finance, Chairman of the Commission for State Arrears and the French companies mentioned above.
This agreement sets the interest rate at 10.5% per annum, from the observation of the due date not respected by one of the parties until the actual day of payment.
To understand the origin of this debt, it should be noted that during the 1980s, Cameroon experienced one of the most serious economic crises in its history, marked in particular by the sharp decline in credits allocated to the public investment budget and the accumulation of unpaid bills vis-à-vis companies, particularly those in the building and public works sector.
These companies had then decided, at least with regard to European and French companies, to leave Cameroon.
In this context, the services of Michel Thierry Atanganawere requested by the State of Cameroon.
The latter undertook to convince French companies to maintain their activities in the country. To do this, it was first a question of regularizing their debts and setting the payment schedules.
This operation led in 1989 to the signing of agreements for the regularization and final settlement of debts between the State of Cameroon and the supplier companies.
Failure to meet deadlines
However, this adopted schedule will not be respected by Cameroon and the late interest rates will contribute to the increase in the amount of the claim. In view of this situation, the President of the Republic will create the Copisupr and bring to its head Michel Thierry Atangana.
For the mobilization of resources, the Copisupr needed bank certificates which in turn required the concentration of the assets of the partner companies through demand deposits.
Two escrow accounts will therefore be opened and managed jointly by the Paymaster General of Douala, representing the State of Cameroon and French oil companies in particular. They had to transfer the special tax on petroleum products into these escrow accounts.
While the mobilization of the partner companies was effective and the escrow accounts were credited with the residues of the assignments-compensations and the direct contributions of the said companies, the government of Cameroon will put an end to these operations, on the grounds that these agreements proceeded to a doubling of the receivables due to the devaluation of the FCFA which occurred in 1994.
Three years later, when Michel Thierry Atangana was arrested for embezzlement of public funds, the contributions from partner companies were returned to the Public Treasury following a judge’s order closing the escrow accounts.Only, faced with recurring requests from Copisupr stakeholders, in particular French companies, the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon then ordered several investigations to its specialized services. The latter concluded that Cameroon owes the plaintiffs 316.8 billion FCFA.Meanwhile, Mr. Atangana, arrested in 1997 and sentenced to 20 years in prison for an affair of embezzlement of public funds, was released in February 2014 thanks to a presidential decree. The facts have always been denied.