Contract Awards : New Kick-Off ?

A few years ago, our country??s developmental doldrums were almost invariably blamed on corruption which ate almost into all the sectors of national life. With trotting proportions, ordinary citizens, deprived of their deserved developmental benchmarks, were quick to be more concerned about just any act that could impair social progress. Numerous

government projects hardly took off the ground. And when they did, they were quickly stopped for reasons ordinary people could hardly ever figure. And yet, as law-makers and government officials reported at the end of each financial year, millions, and, even billions of tax payers?? francs of the so-called investment budget were assumed spent whereas such priority areas such as health, education and communication for which such huge sums were released, laid scandalously bare. Government, in its determination to deliver more resolutely on planned projects, and in its drive to avoid corrupt practices, opted for the tenders system in selecting those into whose hands badly-needed development projects were entrusted. Thence, the creation of the Public Contracts Regulatory Agency-ARMP, a derivative formula of its original French-language delivery. The ARMP set to work, correcting some of the well-known upsets in the granting of contracts. In the generalized context of corruption that preceded and, indeed, prompted its being set up, the ARMP successfully kept some of the well-known malpractices safely at bay. The ARMP made its contract award procedure pretty transparent and, very soon, several African countries acknowledged it as one of the best. Officials from several African countries kept trooping into the Yaounde offices of the ARMP to acquaint themselves with this new Africa wonder. But good as the texts were on paper, their application seemed difficult, given the huge quantity of red-ape to over come. Moreover, the ARMP soon came eyeball-to-eyeball with the country??s developmental partners who would find it difficult to disburse badly-needed funds for the country??s socio-economic development supply because of procedural obstacles; It is difficult to imagine the huge quantities of money lost in the obnoxious situation. And considering that Cameroon had to make good cash-down payments for many of these projects, the devastating toll on the nation??s development strategy could not be difficult to be felt as important road, health, school or other poverty-alleviation projects were abandoned to the chagrin of beneficiary communities. The seminar organized last week by the ARMP was, therefore, most welcome as it sought to ensure a near-perfect concordance with the procedural exigencies of Cameroon??s partners in development and more especially its main fund providers, in such a way that all possible logjams on the way of the disbursement of funds are removed. With up to 70 areas of disruptions identified and solutions proposed, the Yaounde seminar could be said to have been revolutionary and definitely initiated a new take-off in the contract award system. While the Prime Minister??s Office, the supervisory authority over the ARMP, gives its stamp of approval to the amendments in the Contracts Code, there will be a lot of chest-beating for the new take-off the new dispensation offers. But in the eyes of the general public, corrupt practices are still very much associated with the award of contracts. It has been suggested that the overly presence of civil servants on numerous tenders boards be drastically reduced. Even if public officials do the planning, they are not the direct beneficiaries of such developmental initiatives. Hence, the necessity for greater participation of civil society and grassroots beneficiaries of such projects in the selection of contracts. Come what may, the mere mention of a revision of methodology is an indication that the authorities of the contracts sectors are not inert. They want to see things done.
Nkendem FORBINAKE, Cameroun Tribune

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