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Cablegate: Senegal Wants Audit of Asecna Accounts

VZCZCXRO7634
PP RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHDK #2376/01 3410913
ZNR UUUUU ZZH ZDK
P 070913Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY DAKAR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9737
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAN/AMEMBASSY ANTANANARIVO 0293
RUEHBZ/AMEMBASSY BRAZZAVILLE
RUEHLC/AMEMBASSY LIBREVILLE 0985
RUEHGI/AMEMBASSY BANGUI 0026
RUEHMA/AMEMBASSY MALABO
RUEHNJ/AMEMBASSY NDJAMENA 0774
RUEHGI/AMEMBASSY BANGUI 0027
RUEHYD/AMEMBASSY YAOUNDE 0322
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 5030
RUEHRO/TSA ROME IT
RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC
RHMFIUU/FAA NATIONAL HQ LONGMONT
RHMFIUU/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHDC
RUEPGBA/CDR USEUCOM INTEL VAIHINGEN GE//ECJ2/ECJ3/ECJ5//
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK//DOA/DOB/DOI//
RUZFNAI/NASIC WRIGHT PATTERSON AFB OH//DXOA/TAAO//
RHMFISS/HQ USAFE COMMAND CENTER RAMSTEIN AB GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DAKAR 002376

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR AF/W, AF/EPS, AND EB/TRA
DOT FOR OST
BRUSSELS FOR FAA
ROME FOR TSA JWHALINSKI

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON PGOV SG
SUBJECT: SENEGAL WANTS AUDIT OF ASECNA ACCOUNTS

DAKAR 00002376 001.6 OF 003


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Shortly after announcing its withdrawal from the
Agency for Air Navigation Safety in Africa (ASECNA) with an eye
towards directly collecting civil aviation revenues, Senegal
reversed its decision in favor of the status quo. However, Senegal
demanded that ASECNA's Board of Directors commit to an independent
international audit of its accounts with all member countries to
establish a more transparent, reliable and equitable distribution of
ASECNA resources among its member states -- something that would
require the cooperation of all member states. Senegal's sudden
announcement that it was abandoning ASECNA, and then reversing that
decision, is one of a number of recent poorly-considered policy
initiatives. END SUMMARY.

SENEGAL THREATENED TO DEFECT
----------------------------
2. (U) In a November 2 press conference, Senegal's then-Minister of
Civil Aviation, Farba Senghor, announced that Senegal would end its
agreement with ASECNA for the management of the country's airports
and airfields. On November 15, Senghor confirmed the Wade
administration's intention to withdraw completely from ASECNA. He
added "our decision to withdraw is irrevocable and we have already
established a national committee to assess the modalities including
the potential of moving the agency's technical and administrative
headquarters [from Dakar] to another country."

3. (U) Senghor argued that Senegal is losing CFA 20 billion per
year (USD 40 million) due to ASECNA's inadequate and inequitable
investment (or lack thereof) for equipment, training and the upgrade
of facilities with revenues the agency collects at Senegal's
airports. Senghor claimed the GOS would monitor and manage the
safety of its airspace, as well as run or contract out the
management of its airports, as of May 2008 through a new agency
called "Senegalese Aerial Safety Agency."

SENEGAL TO STAY; WANTS AUDIT OF ASECNA'S ACCOUNTS
--------------------------------------------- ----
4. (SBU) After the announcement to leave ASECNA, the government
came under criticism for acting in haste and mostly with an eye for
new sources of revenue to deal with budget and current account
deficits, and without fully studying the civil aviation security,
safety, and administrative requirements such a step would require.
There was also speculation that the GOS' goal was to reclaim
valuable buildings and real estate occupied by ASECNA. The GOS also
faced an immediate diplomatic assault to reverse its decision.
WAEMU President's special envoy, Amadou Chefou (and former ASECNA
General Manager and former ICAO Residential Representative for West
and Central Africa), Gabon's Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Civil
Aviation, and a French Special envoy all met separately with
President Wade to convince him to keep Senegal in ASECNA.

5. (U) President Wade indicated that Senegal's interests have been
severely undercut by the iniquitous management of revenue derived
from each ASECNA member country's civil aviation activities, but he
stated, "I was deeply touched by the message of special envoys from
friendly countries like France, Gabon, and WAEMU, whom together have
offered their support to have Senegal remain in ASECNA and seek with
our partners the internal solutions on the distribution of
resources." On November 22, Senegal's Council of Ministers held a
special session and reversed Senghor's previous declarations.
Though agreeing to maintain the status quo, including having ASECNA
manage Senegal's airports, the final "communique" by the Council of
Ministers insisted that ASECNA's Board of Directors commit to an
independent international audit of ASECNA's accounts, with a focus
on:

-- the establishment of transparent management that highlights each
country's contribution to ASECNA resources, including revenue from
airport and airspace management, and from the oceanic and land

DAKAR 00002376 002.2 OF 003


flight information region (FIR);

-- an assessment of ASECNA's financial contributions to each member
country in relation to revenues collected and respective investment
in infrastructure and equipment;

-- an assessment of expenditures committed from the GOS's budget to
support the infrastructure and operation of the airports; and

-- the valuation of the GOS's buildings occupied by ASECNA.

ASECNA CLAIMS ALL IS WELL
-------------------------
6. (U) During a meeting with the press on November 16, Youssouph
Mahamat, ASECNA General Manager from Niger, acknowledged that other
countries have considered leaving the organization, including
Madagascar and Mauritania. Mahamat dismissed rumors that ASECNA was
facing a financial crisis, and instead claimed that that ASECNA is a
"victim of its success and financial stability."

ASECNA'S ROLE IN SENEGAL
------------------------
7. (U) Unlike in most member states, all airports in Senegal are
operated and managed by ASECNA, which does not return any revenue to
the Senegalese treasury. At the same time, the GOS does not have
any line-item for funding its airports' infrastructure. ASECNA's
revenues are, in theory, to be reinvested to upgrade airport
facilities and equipment within the member states. The bulk of
ASECNA's revenues derive from navigation safety, over-flight, and
passenger fees, and, in the case of Senegal, from landing, parking,
and handling fees. The lack of revenue from ASECNA has long been a
point of contention for the GOS, which feels, with reason, that it
is not receiving the investment it deserves. A case in point is
Leopold Senghor International Airport's inadequate perimeter wall
and fence, which has long been cited by airline companies, ICAO, and
DHS/TSA as a major security failure. Neither ASECNA nor the GOS has
been willing to pay for improvements to the airport's perimeter.

COMMENT
-------
8. (SBU) As a reflection on the Wade administration, the GOS's
announcement that it will definitively withdraw from ASECNA, only to
reverse that decision a few days latter is one of many recent
examples of poorly thought-out and coordinated policy initiatives,
all with the same result: a sudden, and at times embarrassing,
backtracking by the government when serious opposition is voiced.
Other recent examples, reported septel, include the cutting of civil
servant salaries, the selling of government shares of important
companies, and restrictions on street vendors in Dakar. In these
actions, the Wade government has lost credibility in the eyes of the
population, the donor community, and potential investors, and has
opened itself up to greater public scrutiny to its policy decisions
-- not necessarily a bad thing.

9. (U) Regarding ASECNA, Senegal's frustration with the
organization is justifiable, and the GOS' call for comprehensive
audits of ASECNA's financial management is reasonable, if unlikely
without the buy-in of all member countries' civil aviation
authorities. It is clear that for ASECNA to remain and effective
regional body it needs to significantly improve transparency and
equity on the distribution of revenues collected on behalf of member
countries. These resources should be a significant source of
funding for improved civil aviation infrastructure in Senegal and
other member countries. Without improving its accountability,
ASECNA will likely face additional attempts at defection, perhaps
again from Senegal, if not in the near future then at least once
Dakar's new international airport moves towards completion in 3-5
years.

DAKAR 00002376 003.2 OF 003

SMITH

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