The effectiveness in the fight against corruption in Cameroon
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The need to talk about corruption in Cameroon was and remains very crucial. But let it be said that the existence of corruption within a society is not specific to Cameroon alone. In principle, corruption is a scourge which has existed since human beings started organising themselves into communities, indicating that corruption exists in countries in the World over. What generally differs from country to country is its dimensions, its intensity and most important, the way the Government and the Society at large deal with the problem so as to reduce or eliminate it.
Corruption’ originates from the Latin word–corrumpere, which means ‘bribe, mar or destroy. Much evidence suggests that it has been around the world from time immemorial, and, in recent times, it has occupied a front seat in global discussions. In spite of its presence everywhere, there exists no universally accepted definition of corruption, and this constitutes one of the principal difficulties in studying the phenomenon. While corruption is mostly described as the abuse of public power for private gain (a definition used by the World Bank) moralists describe corruption as “an immoral and unethical phenomenon that contains a set of moral aberrations from moral standards of society, causing loss of respect for and confidence in duly constituted authority”. Despite the differences in the definition of corruption from the public-centred to the market-centred perspectives, and from the revisionist to moralist perceptions, there is however unanimity in the condemnation of corruption which is a global predicament that hinders economic growth, threatens the integrity of markets, undermines fair competition, distorts resource allocation, destroys public trust, and cripples the rule of law.
Corruption is a canker worm that has invaded the Cameroonian society. It cuts across all sectors in Cameroon, be they the Public or Private sector and, not even the church is free of corruption. It is an age-old phenomenon that has plagued the Cameroonian society notably in the Health, Educational, Judicial, Financial, Military, and in the Law and Order departments. Cameroon has twice topped the chart of the most corrupt states in the world-1998 and 1999 as per Transparency International indices. Corruption is manifested in several forms including; bribery, nepotism, graft, fraud, speed money, theft, pilferage, embezzlement, falsification of records and influence peddling.
Corruption (commission or omission) is punishable under section 134 of the Penal Code of Cameroon: It indicts “Any national, foreign or international civil servant or public employee, who for himself or for a third party solicits, accepts or receives any offer, promise, gift or present in order to perform, refrain from performing or postpone any act of his office. Also indicted under this section is anyone who receives a reward as remuneration for having already performed or refrained from performance of an act. The popular notion of a corrupt person suggests that only the ‘receiver’ is corrupt. However, this is far from the truth as the ‘giver’ commits no lesser evil. The Cameroonian Penal Code goes as far as punishing the corruptor. It provides that, “Whoever makes promises, offers, gifts and presents or yields to requests liable to result in corruption in order to obtain the performance, postponement or abstention from an act or one of the favours or benefit … shall be punished in a like manner as under section 134(1) above whether corruption produced its effects or not”. Other sections of the Penal Code punishing corruption in the public service include; s.137 (Indulgence), s.142 (Undue demand), s.160 (Compulsion of public servant), s.161 (Procuring Influence), s.312 (Corruption of employee), and s.184 (Misappropriation of public funds).
The classification of Cameroon as the most corrupt nation in the world in 1998 and 1999, made the government more willing than ever to fight the ill. The slogan “Corruption kills the nation” was adopted by the government in its fight against corruption. The national newspaper – Cameroon Tribune had a column devoted every day to corruption. The aim of this campaign was to educate Cameroonians on the ills of corruption and the potential damage it could do to the nation if it persisted. Government media actively engaged in the denunciation of acts of corruption in all sectors of public and private life, with the state newspaper – Cameroon Tribune – championing the battle by examining the illicit swelling of bills in Administrative services, graft in Educational facilities, the Police and the army, customs, health institutions, post and telecommunications services and the railway company among others.
In the early 1990s, Garga Haman Adji the then Minister in charge of Supreme State Audit and Public Service waged a war against embezzlers of state funds. He went as far as submitting names of corrupt officials to the Presidency, requiring that they be punished. The sum of funds embezzled totalled 357 million francs CFA. The response he got was rather discouraging as his Ministerial portfolio was modified, limiting his competence to civil service and administrative reforms. He thus lost his authority over the Supreme State Audit. He resigned from government believing that the modification was due to his hard-line stance against corruption.
In as much as this primary phase of the fight against corruption had its weaknesses, a number of achievements were recorded. These included; the arrest and sentencing of certain high-profile embezzlers such as Professor Titus Edzoa (former SG of the Presidency) and Michel Thierry Atangana by the Mfoundi High Court.
Corruption (in commission or omission) is punishable under sections 134 and 134 (a) of the Pena1 code of Cameroon: « Any public servant or government employee who for himself or for a third party solicits, accepts or receives any offer, promise, gift or present in order to perform, refrain from performing or postpone any act of his office» or who receives any reward «as remuneration for having already performed or refrained from any such act» shall be punished. The corrupter who is a1so punishable under section 134 (a) is any person who illakes promises, offers, gifts and presents in order to obtain either the performance, postponement or abstention from an act.
Corruption is the violation of the obligations of probity, fidelity and impartiality in the exercise of a public service, to the detriment of the user .Corruption is said to have taken place when an individual is paid to perform or refrain from performing his duty either with gifts, promises or presents; corruption is also deemed to have occurred when an individual pays a compliant professional to do his work or to refrain from doing so.
In his presentation during the workshop on corruption organised by Gerddes-Cameroon on 24 March 1999, Mr. Garga Haman Adji considered that «corruption is the result of a conscious act generally for money, performed outside legal, social and moral or spiritual norms: the corrupter and the corrupted violate these norms in a pre- meditated manner for their own concrete or abstract interests … Corruption is legally, morally and socially condemned because it is a denial of the constitutional or legal principles of the equality of citizens in rights and duties, of the free rendering of public services, of the promotion of the right to property and of the subjection of public employees and officials to the law and not the reverse. The society endeavors in this way to maintain the value of man not for what he has but for what he is.
These few examples are an illustration of acts that are punishable under sections 134 and 134 (a) of the Penal Code. However, what is perceived as corruption in our society today goes far beyond the limits of the phenomenon as defined by the law. Corruption no longer involves just the request, a mere solicitation, the offer and reception of gifts and promises in order to perform or to refrain from performing or to postpone any act, nor is it just reward for an act performed or refrained from. ln daily practice the civil servant or government employee no longer waits passively to receive gifts for services rendered; he demands that these gifts be offered before he acts or refrains from acting, that the person requesting his services make a «gesture». This «gesture» in general is well known it in advance that this or that amount of money has to be paid by any candidate wishing to enter a professional school, or by a driver without insurance document or a driving license at a police check point; it is common knowledge that a certain percentage has to be paid to the treasurer before payment of any bills are made etc. To Cameroonians, corruption is also perceived in the non-payment into the public coffers of aIl the taxes collected from tax payers: the government employee who represents the state, pockets part or all of the proceeds.
Based on the forgoing this researcher has embarked on this research to discover the cause of the problems raised and to make policy recommendations’ to address the issues.
1.3.1 GENERAL RESEARCH QUESTION
To what extend is the fight against corruption effective under the Cameroonian legal system?
1.3.2 SPECIFIC RESEARCH QUESTIONS
- What constitutes the concept of corruption in Cameroon legal system?
- What are the various legal and institutional frameworks for the fight against corruption in Cameroon?
- How effective are these institutions for the fight against corruption in Cameroon and what are the challenges encountered?
- What policy recommendations can be made to address the issue?