Ravo Ramasomanana

Public contract irregularities and misappropriation of funds earmarked for health centres leave whistleblower fined in the midst of Covid-19 pandemic

Image: RFI/Sarah Tétaud

Last April, I was very ill with Covid. I was close to death; that was the trigger, that is what pushed me to expose the shenanigans I had been witnessing for months. I had to share this and not take it with me to my grave, that’s what gave me the courage to make the video

Ravo Ramasomanana

Ravo Ramasomanana is a former employee of the Malagasy Ministry of Public Health Procurement Service who shed light on alleged wrongdoings linked to the awarding of a public contract for the construction of a renal transplant centre at Andohatapenara University Hospital in 2019. As a member of the Procurement Management Unit, Ramasomanana resigned in November 2020 after refusing to sign documents he believed to be tainted by irregularities and corruption.

On 15 April 2021, Ramasomanana published a video on his social media networks, denouncing the Malagasy government’s alleged lack of action to alleviate the Covid-19 crisis. In this video, he spoke publicly for the first time about the apparent waste of public money by the Malagasy authorities. According to Ramasomanana, 730 million ariary (approximately 200 000 USD at the time) was spent on painting the exterior of public hospitals, while the equipment, medicines, nursing staff, and personal protective equipment in hospitals remained inadequate.

Ramasomanana denounced the fact that bank cheques had allegedly been used for forgery and counterfeiting; he handled the file himself when he was part of the Procurement Management Unit and refused to validate the contract, which he claimed was riddled with forgery. Ramasomanana also refers to suspicious movements in and out of the Ministry of Health’s 44 billion ariary fund (approximately 11,7 million USD at the time). This sum was initially earmarked for bringing 13 hospitals and 13 basic health centres up to standard. He denounced the fact that some centres were delivered without running water or electricity, as well as what he believed to be nepotism in the health sector. In sum, Ramasomanana revealed information pertaining to alleged rigged tenders, fictitious jobs, contracts by mutual agreement not authorised by law, forgery, forged documents during the awarding of procurement contracts, and the embezzlement of 44 billion ariary. 

As a result of blowing the whistle, on 3 May 2021, Ramasomanana was summoned by the Cybercrime Department to appear in court on 5 May in connection with the video. However, he was unable to appear since he was still in quarantine after contracting Covid-19. On 12 May 2021, Ramasomanana filed a complaint against the Ministry of Public Health with the Antananarivo anti-corruption prosecutor’s office concerning his claims of “forgery and use of forgeries, abuse of office, active and passive corruption, breach of trust, misappropriation of public funds and complicity.” He had enclosed documents and evidence of the irregularities and acts of corruption he denounced. To date, there have been no updates on the complaint.

Like many whistleblowers, Ramasomanana faced reprisals for his courage and was sued by his employer for defamation and spreading false information. On 15 June 2021, Ramasomanana honoured the summons and appeared in court, where he was informed of another complaint that had been lodged, by the Gendarmerie Nationale, according to which the head of the cybercrime unit received insulting messages on his phone after Ramasomanana’s summons had been published on Facebook.

On 29 November 2021, the Antananarivo Criminal Court rendered its decision on Ramasomanana’s case: Ramasomanana was acquitted of the charge of “public disorder and incitement to hatred of the government,” however, he was condemned to a 1 million ariary (approximately USD 260) fine for “insult and defamation”, as stipulated in the law on cybercrime.

“Whistleblowers are the promoters of the rule of law and the defenders of the interest of the public and the population”, said Fadel Barro from PPLAAF. “As such, they must be protected and not prosecuted for the facts that they had the courage to reveal.”

PPLAAF supported Ramasomanana by conducting advocacy for his case, including a press release related to his situation, and liaised with other actors in Madagascar. 

PPLAAF is a non-governmental organisation established in 2017 to protect whistleblowers, as well as to advocate and engage in strategic litigation on their behalf when their revelations deal with the general interests of African citizens.

For additional information:

 Amnesty International:

“Madagascar: Whistleblower faces 5-year imprisonment: Ravo Ramasomanana”, November 11th 2021.

Madagascar: Authorities must drop trumped-up charges against whistleblower Ravo Ramasomanana” (Public statement), November 25th 2021.

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