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No Senegalese Surprise


Washington, October 30, 2009 -

"It wasn't a bribe."  That's what officials of Senegal claimed, in so many words, after it came to light that an International Monetary Fund official vacating his post in the west African country had received $200,000 in cash, a "traditional farewell gift," personally presented by its president (WSJ: "Gift from Senegal President Spurs IMF Inquiry"). The official turned-in the money once in Europe.  The IMF returned it to Senegal, along with a $192 million loan.    

The IMF will do an internal investigation.  I don't put much faith in it, especially considering that the Fund quickly issued a statement amplifying President Wade's claim that the gift (bribe) was a "mistake," not intended to influence the official or the IMF.  There's more to learn about this story, though I doubt we will. 

Senegalese officials protested that this payment couldn't have been a bribe, as the IMF official was on his way out.  "Bribing him when he was leaving wouldn't have made sense."  People aren't naive.  Savvy operators pay after service, knowing that the next guy will perform with visions of a boosted pension in his head.  Civil society groups in Senegal are crying foul.      

Abdoulaye Wade is 83.  Having extended the presidential term to seven years, he's looking toward a third term.  The President lives high on the hog.  The abject poverty Senegalese suffer makes the $200,000 "gift" from government (western-filled) coffers a perversity, whatever its intent.  I met with Wade years ago in Senegal.  He was once lauded as a democratic, responsible leader.               

I was concerned about corruption in Senegal before this story broke because the IMF isn't its only donor.  The U.S. is giving Senegal an extraordinary $540 million through a program designed to promote good governance and the rule of law.  Last month, I wrote Secretary Clinton and pulled an alarm on corruption in Senegal.  And nepotism.  The President has created a "super-ministry" for his son to run.  The response did acknowledge "slippage in governance in Senegal."  To say the least... 

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