Local Government and the Provision of Services in Cameroon: An Assessment of the Use of a Mix of Service Delivery Systems in Kumba Councils in the South West Region
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This study looks at Local Government and the Provision of Services in Cameroon: An Assessment of the Use of a Mix of Service Delivery Systems in Kumba Councils in the South West Region.The provision of services of good quality and quantity is vital to improve and sustain human life and living standards of the population of any community in Cameroon in general and Kumba councils in particular.
This service ranges from health, education, sports sanitation, electricity, drinking water, toilets to roads. Generally, the type of public goods and services and the way services are delivered by the local government are frequently changing in the context of delivery.
The Changes come from technological innovations, scientific innovations, availability of resources and changes emerging both internally and externally, though several attempts have been made to enhance the service delivery of local government.
The creation of city councils to ease service delivery in the municipality, creation of the ministry of a public contract, putting in place a contract board through continuous technical and financial assistance in the Kumba councils. Despite these measures, service delivery in the Kumba municipalities has not improved.
Thus the main objective is to examine the extent to which a mix of service delivery systems results efficiently in the provision of services by local government, in most cases, the local people have socially excluded a reason being that the central government impose on the local government and also the local government lack resources to fully carry out their duties of service provision.
A hybrid of qualitative and quantitative approaches was employed and a descriptive design adopted for the study, constituting inhabitants and mayors of the three councils were selected using a sampling technique. Primary data was then collected from these participants using a questionnaire and interviews.
Though several attempts have been made to enhance the service delivery of local government through continuous technical and financial assistance, it is realised that in most cases, the local people were totally excluded from getting public services due to a number of factors ranging from political interference, corruption lack of competition, poor public private partnership, inadequate financial resources. Therefore, this also focuses on how councils will overcome these obstacles of service delivery.
The major findings of this study are that local government service in the Kumba municipalities implemented several strategies and innovations as developing partnerships with the private sectors and also enhance the public partnership in the service delivery process but still failed to ensure accountability, efficiency and transparency in service delivery.
It is realised that some of the hindrances to the realisation of accountability, efficiency and transparency of local government service provision is that, the councils lack the autonomy to bring about a level of efficiency and accountability in their management and provision of services. this includes a shortage of competent human resources, political interference, unclear power and functions to provide services, inadequate financial resources and unqualified staffs? The key recommendations are that local governments in Cameroon need adequate autonomy that can assist them to be efficient in service delivery.
A variety of arguments have been advanced in defence of using a mix of service delivery system for the provision of services in Local and National Governments in Cameroon
First, in some countries or some provinces, states, or regions within countries, legislated requirements stipulate that specific services must be the responsibility of a separate body or enterprise, generally under a governing structure called a commission, board, or utility. This is the case for municipal electricity distribution in Ontario, Canada, where all policy decisions are made by either a private corporation or a municipally appointed board of directors operating a tarm’s length and independently of the local council.
Second, where local governments are free to choose their governing structures for the provision of local goods and services, the tradition of ten plays a role in relying on separate enterprises; that is, it has always been done that way and there is no reason to change.
Thirdly, Looking at the Cameroon constitution of January 18th 1996 article 55 (2) which states that the regional and local authorities shall have administrative and financial autonomy and shall be freely administered by elected councils, but the problem is thus the local government have autonomy because according to article 58(1) (2) which states that a government delegate appointed by the president shall represent the state in regions, they shall be responsible for national interest, administrative control, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations as well as maintaining law and order.
They shall under the authority of the government supervise and coordinate state services in the region. They shall exercise the supervisory authority of the state over regions (Finken 1996) argues that all the resolutions of the council must be approved by the supervisory authorities before they are enforceable.
The supervisory powers of the central government agencies over councils are considered so strange to the council efforts in providing essential services to local communities. (Ahmad 2005) sited a number of obstacles including the lack of capacities in some national levels of government to exercise the responsibility of public services. Limited ability to manage public finances and proper accountability
This efficiency is achieved within the local public sector when all service responsibilities are organized and allocated so that society gets the greatest possible gain from the use of all resources (inputs) at its disposal. In other words, if reliance on local government enterprises leads to the use of fewer resources than would be required if the same service were provided directly by local government, then it would be more efficient to provide the service by a local enterprise because society would be better off collectively.
Economic efficiency is more than technical efficiency – the latter is a necessary but not sufficient condition for economic efficiency. Technical efficiency exists when a producing unit(firm, government, commission)operates in such a way that it is not possible to secure any additional output given the available inputs (labour, material, and capital)and level of technology.
In other words, technical efficiency is achieved when the output per unit of input is maximized or the cost per unit of output is minimized. This, it should be noted, is not concerned with whether one good or service generates more or fewer net benefits than another good or service. It simply concentrates on the efficient employment of inputs in the production of a specific good or service
In the provision of local public sector services, accountability is achieved when the customer or taxpayer is able to identify who is responsible for what and is able to link the governing unit responsible for the service directly to its funding.
But in the case of Kumba, the is a lot of political influence as the central government suppress the local government services with the creation of the city councils. Thereby making the service delivery process very complex. Also, there is only one governing unit, taxpayers know who is responsible for what and who to contact if they wish to have an impact on decisionmaking.
Where there are a number of local governing units responsible for a diverse range of services, customers or tax as in the case of Kumba where the mayors and the government delegate have similar functions and not knowing who is responsible for what and how to have an impact on decisionmakers.
Consequently, as scholars of Public Administration, it becomes compelling to assess the extent to which the mix of service delivery system can be adopted in the provision of service delivery to local communities. Also, the extent to which decentralization provide efficient service delivery
The research question comprises the main and specific research questions.
The focus of the research is to question the extent to which a mix of service delivery systems results in the efficient provision of services in Kumba Councils.
The specific research questions of the study are:
- To what extent does the establishment and management of enterprises by KumbaCouncils lead to the efficient and transparent provision of services?
- Does the implementation of the Public-Private Partnerships lead to the efficient and transparent Provision of Services in KumbaCouncils?
- Is there a relationship between engaging a Non-profit Organization in service Delivery and the efficient provision of services in KumbaCouncils?
The objectives of the study comprise the main and specific objectives.
The main objective of the study is to establish the relationship between a mix of Service Delivery Systems and the Efficient and transparent provision of services in KumbaCouncils in the South West Region of Cameroon.
The specific objectives of the study are to:
- Assess the link between the establishment and management of local/municipal government enterprises and the provision of services in KumbaCouncils;
- Examine the influence of the implementation of the Public-Private Partnerships on the Provision of Services in KumbaCouncils; and
- Evaluate the extent to which the engagement of Non-Profit organizations for Service Delivery relates to the Efficient Provision of Services in Kumba councils.