By Steve Tametong, Ph.D. (Download pdf version)
The Fight Against Corruption and Related Acts in NDS30 in Cameroon
Since 2020, Cameroon has adopted a new framework of reference and action for its development during the 2020 to 2030 decade: the National Development Strategy 2020-2030 for Structural Transformation and Inclusive Development (NDS30). In line with the prospect of achieving the objectives of Vision 2035, the SND 30 takes over from the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper (GESP), whose mixed results were recognized by government officials at the end of 2019.
One of the causes of this failure is linked to governance marked by corruption. Indeed, corruption is considered both a scourge and a brake on Cameroon’s development. Defined by Article 134 of the Penal Code, corruption presupposes the solicitation and acceptance by a public or private agent of various advantages and favors in return for the performance of a service. It also refers to the fact for a person to offer any advantages with a view to obtaining a service or a good. It includes other offenses related to parties that contribute in one way or another to illicit enrichment, such as influence peddling, misappropriation, interest in an act, embezzlement of public property, participation in a case, and financial embezzlement.
Although there is no specific national legislation relating to the prevention and fight against corruption in Cameroon, it appears that several specialized institutions have been put in place to fight against corruption and related acts. These include the National Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC), the Supreme State Audit Office (CONSUPE), the Special Criminal Court (TCS), the National Agency for Financial Investigation (NAFI), the regulatory agencies, the Audit Office, and the courts of common law.
Despite this institutional arsenal and the custodial sentences imposed on certain public affairs officials, it is clear that corruption remains a worrying social scourge for the public authorities. This is why the fight against corruption has been defined as a priority in the NDS30. How is the anti-corruption strategy in the NDS30? Before presenting the pillars of this strategy (II), it seems appropriate to report on the state of corruption in Cameroon (I). Some recommendations will be formulated at the end of the analysis (III).
I. The State of Corruption in Cameroon
The state of corruption remains alarming in Cameroon despite an improved score of two points in the 2021 ranking of the Corruption Perceptions Index published by the NGO Transparency International. Indeed, Cameroon occupies the 144th position out of 180 countries with a score of 27 points.
According to the 2020 annual report on the fight against corruption published by CONAC, it appears that corruption continues to take root in the public sector. In this case, the road transport sector appears in the first place as the most corrupt sector with a percentage of denunciation of acts of corruption of 17.10%. It is followed by the sector of land affairs (14.60%), law enforcement (13.60%), finance (12.60%), justice (11.30%), and trade (09.10%).
The State suffered an overall financial loss of 17.611 billion CFA francs due to corruption and similar offenses. The spread of corruption and related acts has also been favored by the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, the audit report of the special national solidarity fund for the fight against the coronavirus and its economic and social repercussions published in 2021 by the Audit Office shows that beyond “opacity,” many acts of corruption and embezzlement of public funds have marred the management of this fund.
According to the president of the Cameroonian section of the NGO Transparency International, “the audit published by the Audit Office in November 2021 on the management of COVID-19 funds, which revealed the misappropriation of several billion francs CFA, the denunciations observed on the mismanagement of funds intended for the construction of the infrastructures of the African Cup of Nations, the armed conflicts in the South-West. In the North West and the Far North and the thorny and eternal problems such as nepotism, favoritism, fraud of all kinds, and bribes are tangible proof that corruption is unfortunately now an integral part of the functioning state institutions.” This is why the NDS30 has made the fight against corruption an important focus of its action plan.
II. The Anti-Corruption Strategy in the NDS30
The strategy for the fight against corruption and related acts adopted within the framework of the NDS30 is articulated around the bodies and the legal framework relating to the fight against corruption and related acts. On analysis, it is based on two essential pillars: prevention and repression.
Prevention places special emphasis on the educational component through training actions for public officials. It is mainly for those performing the functions of a manager or accountant of public funds. It includes information on:
- The simplification and modernization of certain administrative procedures
- Reducing cash manipulation, especially in public administrations
- The establishment of an effective alert system for corruption and embezzlement of public funds
- The establishment of a consultation platform between all actors involved in the fight against financial embezzlement
Repression has to be more rigorous and involve the pro-activity of the Budgetary and Financial Disciplinary Court (CDBF) in the processing of files, as well as:
- The pronouncement of sanctions against dishonest public officials
- The strengthening of the system of judicial repression of corruption and attacks on public wealth
- The systematic reissue of accounts in the management of public affairs
Upon analysis, this strategy is not innovative because it is not fundamentally different from all the anti-corruption strategies implemented so far and harnessed around the prevention/repression diptych. This new strategy could have been built on the triptych prevention/repression/optimization of reimbursements.
Moreover, organizing the fight against corruption around the CDBF is, on the one hand, shading the main body responsible for implementing the national anti-corruption strategy – CONAC. On the other hand, not taking into account developments in the communitisation of public finances in the CEMAC zone, which enshrine the extension of the jurisdiction of the Audit Office over authorizing officers. It is, therefore, necessary to strengthen the mechanism for the fight against corruption in Cameroon.
III. Strengthening the Anti-Corruption System in the NDS30
NDS30 requires a strengthening of the normative and institutional mechanism for the fight against corruption and related acts in Cameroon. Understood in this way, the ratification of the African Union Convention on the prevention and fight against corruption reinforces the normative system already in force. In the wake of the strengthening of this normative mechanism, CONAC’s advocacy in favor of strengthening the mechanism for the fight against corruption by adopting an anti-corruption law and signing the implementing decree for Article 66 of the Constitution deserves careful consideration by the public authorities. Also, is it important to adopt a law relating to the criminalization of illicit enrichment as prescribed by the provisions of law n ° 2018 of July 11, 2018, on the code of transparency and good governance in the management of public finances.
It is necessary to coordinate the awareness-raising actions of the various institutions involved in the anti-corruption strategy and to strengthen actions for the judicial repression of offenses within a reasonable time. Also, the reports published by the anti-corruption bodies should be taken into account. With particular regard to CONAC and NAFI, their annual reports are forwarded to the President of the Republic, who decides what action to take. These bodies, therefore, do not have the power to sanction. If the dematerialization of administrative procedures makes it possible to reduce the risk of corruption, it would be necessary to optimize the reimbursement of misappropriated goods and to set up a special fund replenished by these reimbursements intended for the construction of social infrastructure of general interest.
The practice of corruption and related acts remains a worrying social scourge in Cameroon, and the efforts made by the public authorities to stem its expansion have not yet produced all the expected effects. This is why the NDS30 has adopted a fight strategy based on two pillars: prevention and repression. However, this strategy deserves to be reinforced by a better stifled normative mechanism and a synergy of the coordinated action of the bodies involved in the fight against corruption.