27 November 2012

Cameroon: Turning Point

Members of Parliament are about to begin the examination of the 2013 State budget that is estimated at FCFA 3,236 billion.

The exercise would have been considered as routine if there were no such novelties as performance-based budgeting and the reintroduction of planning in the execution of projects in the country.

It is not as if the national budget lacked vision in the past, but the fact today is that a long term vision will henceforth be the leitmotiv of the execution of State budget. As if by coincidence, the measure falls in line with directives by the Head of State to the December 9, 2011 government headed by Prime Minister Philemon Yang that all ministers should provide road maps.

The approach to govern by clear objectives, same as the need to envisage projects that match with the long-term development initiatives in the country is the unavoidable road to take. Several development projects have suffered in the past because the fiscal year came to an end without the necessary measures to achieve required results. In presenting Government's Economic, Financial, Cultural and Social Programme for fiscal year 2013 at the National Assembly on Monday November 26, 2012, Prime Minister pointed out that: "For the first time, the law assigns to each Government department: programmes, objectives to be attained and indicators for measuring these objectives at the end of the period. The total amount of commitment authorizations stands at 3,733 billion 650 million CFA Francs."

Consequently, the projects earmarked for 2014 and 2015 have been budgeted and another passage of the Head of Government in the National Assembly next year during the budget session of the House should not only focus on what is going to be done, but must equally include a mid-way evaluation of what has been achieved concerning the 'commitment authorization.' The procedure creates room for benchmarks as well as checks and balances.

Parliament is therefore obliged to intensify control efforts where development projects have been envisaged. This equally means parliamentarians who until now focused more on tenders to win contracts without being concerned about the execution of such contracts might have to think twice. However, the million-dollar question remains whether the change in budgeting approach and nomenclature is enough to change habits. Of course, the ideal response may not come from one person.

Perhaps, the response lies in the creation of awareness such that all stakeholders, especially the beneficiary population, form part of the control mechanism in ensuring the execution of the State budget. Broadening the supervisory approach may equally appear as the best option because in the past, all those who climbed on roof-tops to recount the good intentions of government have not always applied those lessons in the management of State affairs.

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