By Tata Mbunwe
Cameroon’s Anti-corruption Commission (CONAC) says the government has sanctioned dozens of state employees involved in corruption, with some handed prison terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.
This was after the country lost FCFA 4.6 billion to corruption in 2022. CONAC said the figure significantly differs from the FCFA 43.9 billion lost in 2021.
CONAC’s 2022 anti-corruption report indicates that the Ministry of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure had the highest number of complaints on corruption.
This is followed by the Ministries of Territorial Administration; Finance; Education; and Public Contracts.
Some of these Ministries were also among five government Ministries that CONAC regretted they failed to collaborate in the drafting of the 2022 anti-corruption report.
The institution’s Chairman, Dieudonne Massi Gams, presented the report in Yaounde on October 27.
The country has intensified its fight against corruption following persistent rankings of Cameroon among the most corrupt countries in the world.
Transparency International ranked Cameroon as the 144th least corrupt country in the world in 2021, with a score of 27/100.
The score dropped to 26/100 in 2022, with a rank of 142 in the world.
“Last year, in similar circumstances, I talked about the need to strengthen governance in the management of public affairs and to control government spending,” President Biya said in his end-of-year speech on December 31, 2022.
He added: “Rest assured that this concern is constant and unwavering. I also want to reiterate that those who are illicitly amassing wealth by plundering the State, at whatever level, will be brought to book.”
Although the country’s anti-corruption report showed an improvement, endemic levels of corruption still exist in nearly all facets of Cameroonian life.
The CONAC 2022 report exposes regular acts of corruption in some “very corrupt Ministries”, including the Ministry of Public Service.
Notable acts of corruption at the Ministry included unjustified salary collections; forgery; corruption in administrative competitive examinations; and the installation of unrecognized traditional Chiefs by the local population.
In the education sector, corruption complaints concerned the mismanagement of PTA funds in schools and bribery in the enrollment of students.
In the finance sector, CONAC pointed out practices like “percentage payments” and misappropriation of funds for pensions and career-related arrears.
The Ministry of Public Contracts also registered corruption complaints related to irregularities in the contracts award process.
CONAC said it conducted investigations following these complaints through the Rapid Intervention Actions (RIAs) or Control Missions.
The investigations resulted in the sanctioning and dismissal of 118 state employees.
After the CONAC report, the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of Public Contracts excluded 77 private companies from public contracts for a period of two years.
Similarly, the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife has suspended 34 companies from logging activities over corruption.
CONAC equally reported that 121 students were suspended from universities and private higher education institutions for examination fraud.
The Special Criminal Court has also sentenced 24 people out of 32 accused of gross corruption, to imprisonment terms ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment.
Improved Citizen Participation
CONAC’s Chair, Rev Dr Massi Gams, appreciated the increasing involvement of Cameroonians in the fight against corruption.
This, he said, was evident in the increased level of corruption denunciations his office received from the public last year.
The institution received 7,061 reports in 2022, compared to 6,705 in 2021. This means an increase of 356 corruption denunciations.
Some of them were received via a toll-free number, 1517, while others came through the institution’s email and WhatsApp contacts.
This improvement in corruption monitoring comes amid struggles by politicians like the 2018 Presidential candidate, Barrister Akere Muna, to involve the grassroots in the fight against corruption.
Barrister Akere launched a grassroots movement called, Now Movement, in September to empower people to monitor corruption at the grassroots.
He said the movement was out for a “brighter tomorrow with zero tolerance for corruption”.
The politician said the fight against corruption will be easier if all Cameroonians are involved.
Mimi Mefo Info