Congo Probes Former Health Minister Over Use of Ebola Funds

(Bloomberg) -- Immigration authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo banned the former health minister from leaving the country, days after he was interrogated over how funds were used to contain the Ebola outbreak, his lawyer said.

The second-deadliest outbreak of the disease has killed as many as 2,035 people in eastern Congo and risks spreading to neighboring countries. Oly Ilunga oversaw government efforts to combat the virus until his resignation as health minister in July in protest at being sidelined by President Felix Tshisekedi, who took direct control of the response.

Congo Probes Former Health Minister Over Use of Ebola Funds

In his resignation letter, Ilunga described the presidency’s decision as “interference” and said he’d been under pressure to introduce a second experimental vaccine manufactured by U.S. company Johnson & Johnson.

Ilunga was questioned last week as part of an inquiry into how Ebola response funds were spent while he was still in office, his lawyer Guy Kabeya said. The travel ban, which his client found out about through social media, was issued on Aug. 30.

The response is led by the Congolese government with support from the World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak an international public health emergency. The WHO has received almost $114 million from foreign donors in the year to August.

Traditional Chiefs

Ilunga was questioned by a panel of three judicial officials about money disbursed by the ministry to traditional chiefs and bonuses paid to Ebola response team workers, he said.

“Ilunga replied that there was nothing irregular in this and there were receipts to prove that the traditional chiefs received the funds,” Kabeya said by phone from the capital, Kinshasa. “On the bonuses, the former minister gave it to people who worked extra hours.”

Ilunga is being harassed, according to Kabeya. “The right to movement is constitutional and can only be limited by court order,” he said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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