Government has at last descended its disciplinary axe on recalcitrant contractors.
It is not clear if the victims expected such an extreme decision. But it is clear they are aware of the havoc they have been causing on government projects. The Minister of Public Contract did not appear to have any other option than signing the decision suspending contracting companies that have fallen into the dragnet. Up to 122 of them are guilty of failing to execute the projects awarded them by the government.
This particularly concerns the 2013 and 2014 financial year. In fact, some Cameroonians who suffered the consequences of the non execution of public investment projects earmarked for these two years are still licking their wounds. In 2013 for instance, none of the ten regions scored a mark that surpassed 50 per cent.
The year that followed was expected to produce better results, unfortunately the same scenario was observed. One of the drawbacks in the execution of the PIB was thought to be the procedure surrounding the effective functioning of the Public Contract system. At all stages of the public contract mechanism, there were problems and most of them had to do with inertia exacerbated by strings of corrupt actions.
In the face of this, government in order to put an end to the malaise announced more stringent measures to be taken including the compression of deadlines for contract awards, execution, evaluation and submission. This particular measure was to be compounded by a number of other measures including the capacity building of stakeholders in the contract award system and institution of a consultation framework between the Ministries of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development (MINEPAT), Finance (MINFI) and Public Contract (MINMAP) for monthly reviews of the programming and execution of public contracts.
The suspension of the 122 companies is surely the outcome of the application of these measures. The decision may appear to be extreme especially as government has been working towards encouraging local enterprises operating in the contract execution sector. But if one were to measure the damage caused on the population as a result of the non execution of these projects, one would readily understand and even wish that the sanctions go beyond simple suspension.
A mortuary building was abandoned in Laquintinie hospital, road, school and water supply projects dumped as well as street lighting projects. Now that the said companies have been sanctioned; what next? This question is extremely important. The whole issue should not be limited to simple sanctions but measures should be taken to ensure that such disasters don’t re-occur.
Government certainly knows that the whole issue of no execution of projects is complex. The complexity comes from the fact that the contract awards system is too interwoven and infected with corrupt practices at all levels of the chain. This entails that the much more still has to be done to give a lasting solution to this problem. The companies that have been sanctioned might just be scapegoats.
One of the things that have been holding back the execution of PIB is the exploration and exploitation of the sources of financing. Projects, one would imagine are executed with money and this money is lodged somewhere and must be released on time. This, contractors have often complained, is where the shoe pinches most. So, it is important to completely weed out the bad seeds at all levels. This is the real challenge.