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The Cameroon civil service and the war of figures

The recent outing of the Minister of Economy and Finance, Esimi Menye, to joyfully announced and with much aplomb that 15000 fake civil servants have been caught in the civil service, was at its best, a badly calculated move to cajole those who are not versed with Cameroon mishandling and juxtaposition of statistics.  In fact, the announcement could trigger elite-driven motions of support from party militants, in government efforts at cleaning the civil service of crooks.


It was also aimed at seducing the poverty aggravating cum masses-unfriendly BrettonWoods to providing more booty for the incompetent aristocrats in Yaoundé. However, it could be considered a whopper or a non-event to any, who could make a retrospect of some declarations by ministers of the same regime. Unfortunately, the Cameroonian press felt to the well calculated public relation move.

The minister disclosed that 15000 unscrupulous civil servants have been uncovered. Many of these were either dead, others perceiving multiple salaries. Though the pronouncement was planed to coincide with the visit of the Breton woods senior aide, a diagnosis of the statement leaves much to be desired.

If Minister Esimi Menye was so confident of his catch, why could he not publish all the names of the culprits? This is not a party affair, it is a public one. Why did he not transfer the names immediately to the appropriate service so that the payments are cut immediately and the public told of the financial benefit of such a move? The tendency for government officials and other senior civil servants to run public business as their personal enterprise with no accountability gives room for this total mediocrity. The move by the minister was not new because previous ministers have done just the same thing.

In May 2007, the then Minister of Economy and Finance, Polycarp Abah Abah now in prison (for funds allegedly embezzled and misappropriated when he was director of taxes), announced that the Cameroon government had discovered 20.000 ghost workers in the civil service. This declaration was made in the presence of IMF officials. Among the supposed twenty thousand, 16.000 were people who were already dead but still receiving salaries. Four thousand were people who were in civil service but receiving double and multiple salaries.

He also announced that 22000 fake pensioners were discovered, 10.000 being ghost employees and 12000 being people still in civil service but receiving pensions. According to Abah Abah, the catch was thanks to the computerisation of the payment scheme under the system known as SIGIPES.

Still during that period, while Abah Abah talked of a total of 200.000 civil servants in Cameroon, the Public Service Minister proclaimed 120.000 excluding temporal workers. If one were to even add the temporal workers, the margin would still be high. This shows great inconsistency in the figures they feed the public with.

But it did not end there. In an interview granted AFP in February, the Communication Officer in the Ministry of Public Service and Administrative Reform, a certain Charles Atangana Menda, said the Cameroon government had just caught 1848 fake civil servants. He went ahead to say each ministry was then suppose to take care of its personnel. Ironically, if you ask a minister or the competent authority in any ministry the number of employees in their department, none would be able to give you any figure even near the exact number. If you give them 2 months for an answer, they will still end up coming with these political statistics. Yet, the noise is made now and then on the computerisation of civil service.  Hundreds of millions have been supposedly spent to buy equipment for the computerisation process.

This situation is not different with para-statals and even private companies in Cameroon, most of which operate in vey unorthodox manner. However, in the state companies, just as in civil service, thousand get employed without sitting for any examination. The same officers fighting to clean the civil service are the same people conniving with unscrupulous civil servants to drain Cameroon. They are the same who have agreed on percentages as Cameroon civil servants leave the country for greener pastures abroad but continue to earn salaries.

What explains that fact that ever since former minister Abah Abah launched the “operation antelope” instead of the current minister telling the public how much have been recovered and how many of the culprits are now under study, he comes to tell the people that they will start seeing the fruits of their efforts. This “will” rhetoric is the same rambling that has been in place for 28 years. After 28 years of almost stagnation, some Cameroonians are still hoping on the government, “will”.

After the minister Abah Abah declaration 2007, the state went ahead to increase the salaries of civil servants. Amazingly, without a mastery of the number of civil servants on its payroll, one wonders why such an increment was made. Economist, Babissakana reiterated that it was a bad move for it would drain the country more. However, many countered, on grounds that the minister of Economy and Finance had already announced the uncovering of 20.000 fake workers, referring to the  Abah Abah 2007 declaration. But again, on on a disturbing note, just   a little over a year after the increment, the current new minister of Economy and Finance announces again than 15000 state employees have been caught. Why all this swinging of figures? Is it the inability to manage or it is the lack of will? I suggest both.

If there is an institution from where we can never to rely on statistics, it is the Cameroon government. This is because there is always a mix-up between political statistics and real statistics. As a result, most statistics that concern Cameroon which may have some element of truth are statistics from empirical or anecdotal evidence. They could as well be from studies independently carried out. But again, when you have to seek any statistics from the government, one would have to always meet these figures.  For example, the Cameroon government would tell you that unemployment in the country is just hovering around 13 % but, if you were to calculate  base on the number of students who leave university and colleges (potential employees) but who end up being unemployed each year, you would end at an unemployment rate of about 70 %.

 The inertia in the country is rather disturbing. The only solution for this is, the organisation of fair elections, recruitment to public services related department based solely on merit, application of impartial justice and the appropriate division of labour to enable specialist be in their domain.

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