Development: Key Role Of Local Authorities

Since the passing of Law No. 2019/024 of 24 December 2019 to Institute the General Code of Regional and Local Authorities,   the key actor and locomotive of development has moved from the central government to the Regions and Local Councils.  The Law in Section 2 (1) states that, “The local authorities of the Republic of Cameroon shall be Regions and Councils.”
What makes the local authorities key actors in development is the powers and corresponding resources the central government devolves to them to carry out palpable development in certain pertinent domains. Section 19 of the Code specifies that, “The State shall devolve to local authorities the powers necessary for their economic, social, health, educational, cultural and sports development.” The powers and their scope devolved to Regions and Local Councils are clearly spelt out to avoid overlapping and confusion.  In all, the local authorities with regard to economic development are in charge of economic actions, environmental and natural resources management, spatial planning, regional development, public works and town planning. Both the Regions and local councils in their respective spheres are also in charge of health and social development, educational, sports and cultural development.
Before the law on the General Code of Regional and Local Authorities was passed, decentralization was progressively implemented. Indeed, the devolution of powers and corresponding resources by some ministries to local councils started since 2010. However, confusion reigned is some aspects as projects still followed a top-bottom movement in terms of selection and execution. The practice by some members of the political elite to lobby for projects and some public structures and institutions to be created in their villages of origin was still common.  Projects and institutions were used to compensate the population that voted for political parties. The allocation of Public Investment Budgets per Region, Division and Subdivision did not follow the criteria of needs and balance but that of compensation. Some of the allocated projects did not even kick off. Some started but were never completely and others were poorly executed.
There have been reports of projects received on paper but the proper execution on the field never took place.  The local administrative and municipal authorities as well as the population in some localities suddenly saw contractors carrying out projects. None of the authorities had any details about the projects. Consequently, it was impossible for proper follow-up of the projects and also for the supposedly beneficial population to own and appropriate the projects. 
The practice of top-bottom approach in projects execution still lingers on. The Senior Divisional Officer of Ngoketunjia Division in the North West Region has reportedly complained that the contractor of a local bridge which got broken in his area of command recently was unknown to him.  A similar case was witnessed in Foumban during events leading up to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Reunification of Cameroon. The then Senior Divisional Officer for the Noun reportedly suspended refurbishing work in the hall where the Foumban Conference of 1961 took place. The hall was programmed to be the venue of the conferences and other activities leading up to the celebration of the golden jubilee of Reunification but the SDO suddenly saw a contractor working on the project and had to stop the work.
The clear definition of roles in the local development strife with local authorities taking the lead is a great salvation to equitable and balanced development. The law gives the green light for more checks and balances, bottom-top approach in the selection of projects and creates room for following up of projects and balanced development.  The local authorities lead but there is no room for dictatorship.  The local population is empowered. Section 40 of the  law on the General Code of Regional and Local Authorities  states that, “ Any natural or legal person may prop...



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