Cameroon’s Anti Corruption Unit hard at work-Corruption perception index in Cameroon’s forestry sector slumps
For several decades in Cameroon, corruption had made its bed on Cameroon's forest canopy, promoting illegality in the sector with serious consequences for the environment, local communities and the State’s budgetary revenues
The spread of this scourge has greatly contributed to Cameroon’s rank as one of the world’s most corrupt countries. This situation heightened awareness at the Ministry of forestry and wildlife in 2012 and prompted it to develop its sectoral anti-corruption strategy and practical steps were taken to dislodge corruption from Cameroon's forests, namely:
♦ The renewal of the Anti-Corruption Unit’s membership, headed by a civil society figure in the person of Mr. Samuel Makon,
♦ The allocation of premises along with support staff;
♦ The allocation of an operating budget to the Unit for the implementation of certain investigative missions;
Despite the meager resources available to the ACU (Anti-Corruption Unit), it has achieved encouraging results. These results are the fruit of the concerted action of MINFOF and the communities, community organizations and civil society, the media, law enforcement and development partners. These actions include:
♦ An inventory of corrupt practices in the Forestry and Wildlife sector;
♦ the development of a "Clean" MINFOF Officer guide which aims to enhance the performance of MINFOF agents who uphold its values such as integrity;
♦ the delivery of several training courses in the East, West and South West regions, in collaboration with civil society, to establish islets of integrity within MINFOF’s decentralized services;
♦ the extension to eight regions in Cameroon of the Rapid Results Initiatives ( RRI ) which had already been previously tested on the Belabo - Ngaoundere road and outlined in the Document authored by Marius Talla and Romain Calaque. The approach incorporates other anti-corruption tools such as the Probe Agent’s Guide, the Forestry Controller’s Guide and the Development of Integrity Pacts for sector actors;
♦ and denunciations of corruption cases involving MINFOF officers and which resulted in sanctions being meted out against these unscrupulous actors.
These results have so far led to a significant decline in user perception of the corruption index in the forestry sector in Cameroon. However, according to the ACU, the above-mentioned results may have a wider impact in the days ahead if emphasis is placed on the following elements:
♦ prevention beyond the occasional and targeted civic campaigns: it will be aimed at using the educational system to demonstrate to the younger generation how perverse and problematic this scourge is for society as a whole ;
♦ deterrence: it will make use of existing institutions responsible for the fight against corruption in deterring offenders. It should be noted here that the RRIs have deterrent power and can only be useful if repression is effectively implemented;
♦ repression: it will actually empower the courts as the effectiveness of the fight against corruption hinges on the potential for punishment and coercion, because in many cases, the fear of punishment may be the beginning of wisdom.
Moreover according to ACU officials, the eradication of corruption also relies on:
♦ the “zero tolerance” policy: this implies that all who are guilty of corruption will be called to account in a fair trial in court;
♦ raising the wages (between 50 % and 70 %) of civil servants and State officers from pre- 1993 levels and restoring the benefits associated with their functions, which were scrapped to comply with the dictates of the Bretton Woods Institutions;
♦ removing the provision allowing civil servants and state employees whose salaries were substantially slashed to "make ends meet" by creating businesses on the side, without any consideration of the incompatibility of these side activities with the services behooving them.
For more information on the ACU, you may contact Makon Wehiong Samuel, Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife of Cameroon, firstname.lastname@example.org