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By Théophile Nguimfack Voufo, Ph.D. (Download pdf version)

The National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) and the Court of Auditors: What Synergy of Action in the Fight Against Corruption in Cameroon?


Introduction

The phenomenon of corruption is growing so much in Cameroon, to the point where we must be careful that it does not become a characteristic of Cameroonian identity. Cameroon has twice held the rank of the highest corruption index in the world.[1] However, the will of the public authorities to put an end to it is matched only by the determination of the actors of corruption to escape the meshes of the control mechanisms.

Given the government strategy and the proliferation of organizations fighting against corruption, one could expect a significant reduction of this scourge in Cameroon. But like a hydra, corruption remains a major problem in Cameroonian society. A substantial literature has been able to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of administrative, political, and jurisdictional bodies in the fight against corruption.[2] Among other weaknesses are prominently the subordination of the power of sanction to the will of the president of the Republic, the politicization of special operations to fight against corruption, and the lethargy of certain control bodies.

The creation of the NACC, an organization specializing in the fight against corruption, has created hope in Cameroon. But, the decree fixing its attributions does not give it its own power of sanction. Consequently, NACC limits itself to noting the facts of corruption and reports them to the public authorities or seizes the judge by denunciation. This technique of referral by denunciation was mainly oriented toward the judicial judge.

In practice, however, NACC had to experiment with referral to the Audit Bench of the Supreme Court, which opens up the prospect of collaboration between these two bodies in the fight against corruption in Cameroon. The question arises as to how NACC and the jurisdiction of accounts can combine their actions in the fight against corruption in Cameroon.

After analysis, it appears that the ways of functional collaboration between the two organizations exist (I); however, they require some operational coordination (II).

Ways of a Functional Collaboration

There is no legal relationship between the NACC and the Court of Auditors in Cameroon. The two institutions are independent of each other. As such, the Court of Auditors is independent of the government and Parliament,[3] while NACC is an autonomous body.[4] Placed under the authority of the president of the Republic, to whom its files and reports are exclusively transmitted,[5] NACC can seize the Minister of Justice in the event of flagrant delicto following a denunciation.[6] Even if the opportunity for collaboration with the Court of Auditors has not been considered, two ways are emerging for this purpose, one indirect and the other direct.

The Indirect Way of Collaboration

There are indirect mechanisms of collaboration through which NACC and the Court of Auditors can combine their efforts in the fight against corruption in Cameroon. Reciprocally, each of the two institutions can appropriate the work of the other within the framework of its own missions, corruption being an offense against the regulations on the management of public assets.

On the one hand, the Court of Auditors can take inspiration from the report on the state of the fight against corruption in Cameroon published annually by NACC to feed its program of activities and guide it in a relevant manner. It is not necessary for this report drawn up for the attention of the president of the Republic to be formally transmitted to the Court of Auditors once it has been made public.[7]

On analysis, the NACC report on the state of corruption presents in detail by sector of activity the corrupt practices and their financial impact. It also describes the strategies put in place to fight against this scourge. By using this information, the Court of Auditors will be better able to sanction irregularities and management errors committed by the managers of the administrations indexed in the NACC report. Conversely, NACC can rely on the annual report of the Court of Auditors, which sets out the results each year of its work and the observations that it considers necessary to make with a view to reforming and improving the keeping of accounts and the discipline of accountants.[8]

In addition, the Court of Auditors can produce thematic reports and issue opinions on any question relating to the management of public finances. All these reports are published on the website of the Audit Bench and can inspire all other investigations, in particular those of NACC. This implicit collaboration is not formalized, unlike direct collaboration.

The Direct Way of Collaboration

While it was not intended that NACC and the Court of Auditors collaborate directly in the sanction of public financial offenses, the two institutions have nevertheless initiated a functional relationship through the referral mechanism.

Indeed, the president of NACC proceeded to the transmission of a file relating to the financial embezzlement noted during a control mission carried out from February to March 2009 with the municipal revenue of the North-West and South-West Regions on the instructions of the Paymaster General of this financial district.[9]

The file was thus transmitted for competence because NACC had specified in its letter that the defendants, mayors of certain municipalities, by the handling of the values in portfolio (municipal stamps), had constituted themselves, accountants, in fact.[10] This referral to the Audit Bench by NACC can be interpreted as a “forced passage.” Article 39 of the law of April 21, 2003, on the Audit Bench, prescribes that all cases of de facto management discovered by the administration are centralized at the Supreme State Audit, which has a monopoly on referral to the Court of Auditors. In doing so, NACC further asserts its autonomy and ensures that its denunciations reach the organization best able to sanction the irregularities observed.

In the same vein, the Court of Auditors can refer to NACC for the needs of control in certain administrations. Under the terms of the law of July 12, 2018, on the financial regime of public entities, the audit jurisdiction may, at the request of the government or Parliament, carry out investigations and analyses on any budgetary, accounting, and financial questions.[11]

It is interesting that the Court of Auditors can refer to NACC aspects of these investigations and analyses related to corruption. This is logical insofar as the decree of March 11, 2006, provides that it “can also be seized by any natural or legal person of complaint or denunciation for facts or acts of corruption.[12] There is nothing to prevent the Court of Auditors from asking NACC for in-depth investigations in the event of corruption. This is also part of a need for operational coordination between the Court of Auditors and NACC.

The Need for an Operational Coordination

It is necessary to institute an operational coordination mechanism for NACC and the Court of Auditors in the area of the fight against corruption. The advisability of such a coordination mechanism is based on the conviction that corruption is a multidimensional phenomenon against which the fight must be carried out using several approaches.

The combination of all these approaches constitutes an effective way of eradicating this scourge in its various manifestations. A favorable framework for collaboration between these two institutions requires the establishment of a platform for consultation and data sharing as well as the pooling of resources.

The Establishment of a Consultation Platform

Faced with a large number of bodies in charge of the fight against corruption and the mixed results obtained in this area, a strategic reorganization of these bodies is necessary in order to ensure the effectiveness of controls.

One way is to set up consultation frameworks in the form of a platform. This mechanism will make it possible to define an ambitious action plan based on the complementarity of action of the two institutions. The platform can be designed on the model of what exists between the Audit Bench and Parliament.

The establishment of a platform makes it possible to address current issues, evaluate the system in place, and formulate recommendations with a view to improving activities relating to the fight against corruption.

The other useful dimension of a coordination platform is real-time data sharing. It is important that denunciations of corrupt practices are followed by immediate action, the objective being to prevent offenders from covering up their actions with various subterfuges. The coordination of controls between NACC and the Court of Auditors can thus promote speed in the sanctioning of certain offenses such as mismanagement and de facto management. This requires that the resources of the two institutions be pooled.

Resource Pooling Approaches

The pooling of resources appears to be a necessity from the perspective of intense collaboration between NACC and the jurisdiction of accounts in the fight against corruption.

In its Annual Reports, the Audit Bench has often complained about the lack of personnel assigned to its public accounts control activities. It has long pleaded for verification assistants to be made available to it and for the number of magistrates recruited within it to be increased.

For its part, NACC has generally required large numbers of staff to identify all acts of corruption. However, the pooling of resources makes it possible to mitigate these obstacles and optimize the means available for a satisfactory level of results. The reasoning is identical with regard to financial and material resources, the pooling of which will certainly make it possible to obtain effective results.

The approach presented appeared in the remarks of the President of NACC when he underlined in the National Anti-Corruption Strategy that despite the plethora of authorized bodies, the expected results in the fight against corruption remained mixed because of “the dispersion of the efforts made by the many public and private organizations to stem this scourge. Indeed, although the actions carried out are the work of state institutions, private sector organizations, or civil society,”[13] one can deplore the absence of “synchronization in the implementation of anti-corruption actions in Cameroon.”[14]

Ultimately, the axis of collaboration between the NACC and Court of Auditors can be promising in the field of the fight against corruption in Cameroon. However, it is necessary to be aware of the avenues open for this collaboration and to bring the two institutions into synergy.

[1]This was the case in 1998 and 1999 in the ranking of the most corrupt countries in the world published by Tranparency International.

[2]P. TITI NWELL ( dir .), Corruption in Cameroon , GERDDES Cameroon, Editions F. Ebert Stiftung , 1999; F. ANOUKAHA, The Penal Code of July 12, 2016 and the fight against corruption in Cameroon , Yaoundé, Les Grandes Éditions, June 2016.

[3]Article 86 paragraph 2 of Law No. 2018/012 of July 11, 2018 on the financial regime of the State and other public entities.

[4]Article 1 st paragraph 1 of Decree No. 2006/088 of March 11, 2006 on the creation, organization and functioning of the National Anti-Corruption Commission.

[5]Article 22 paragraphs 1 and 2 of Decree No. 2006/088, cited above.

[6]Article 22 paragraphs 1 and 2 of Decree No. 2006/088, cited above.

[7]Article 24 paragraphs 3 and 4 of Decree No. 2006/088, cited above.

[8]Article 3 of Law No. 2003/005 of April 21, 2003, cited above.

[9]Letter n°4200/0126/3272/ CONAC of July 14, 2011 from the President of CONAC.

[10]Judgment n°03/P/CSC/CDC/SR of September 18, 2014, De facto management case against 9 mayors and 1 merchant from the North-West and South-West regions.

[11]Article 86 paragraph 4 of Law No. 2018/012, cited above.

[12]Article 3 paragraph 2 of Decree No. 2006/088, cited above.

[13] MASSI GAMS (D.), in National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2016-2020, p. 6.

[14] Id.