By Yerima Kini Nsom
The National Assembly has designated investigators from the Finance Committee of the House to closely monitor the use of all public funds in Cameroon.
Officials of the Ngoa-Ekelle Glass House, designated the investigators during a session of the Finance Committee last week. Although the move is provided for by the law, the designation of the parliamentary investigators is a novelty in the Lower House of Parliament.
The designation of the corps has suffered an eight-year delay, given that such investigators are provided by Law no. 2007/006 of December 2007 that borders on the financial regime of the State.
The Post learnt that some members of Government were stalling the application of the Law for fear of being exposed by the investigators. By virtue of Article 69 of the Law, the Finance Committee of the National Assembly is charged with the designation of the investigators every year at the beginning of the first Ordinary Session of the Law-making House. They consist of a General Rapporteur in charge of public spending and control of the use of public funds.
According to the Law, the special rapporteurs have powers to control documents instantly during their investigations. It states clearly that no one has the right to keep any document away from them, except one that borders on national security, defence and on secret medical documents.
Article 12 of the Law defines the investigator’s area of control. It covers tax on revenue, non tax revenue, among others. The special rapporteurs also shoulder the responsibility of the production and sale of non-profit services by the State, land revenue, contributions, retirement benefits, social protection funds.
They also have to control pecuniary fines, money accruing from competitive examinations, land tax, sale of land, among others. The financial watchdogs of the National Assembly would also have to watch over current expenditure of the State in goods and services, salaries and other expenses of State personnel. Their control equally borders on subventions, investments, the buying of shares, short-term and long term loans.
By dint of this same Law, the members of Government are compelled to provide Parliament with up-to-date information on the evolution of the national economy, orientations on public finances and the development of big investment projects. Government also has as obligation to inform Parliament by writing on the execution of the State budget every year, latest September 30.
Article 37 of the financial regime empowers the special rapporteurs to address a questionnaire by September every year to the competent Government authorities on the expenses of the State. It equally stipulates that the competent authorities must submit answers eight (8) days to the tabling of the Finance Bill. If the Members of Parliament do their work well, the legislative body will fully assume its responsibility of effectively controlling Government action.
Article 35 of the Constitution and Chapter 12 of the Standing Orders of the House; hunch the National Assembly with the responsibility of controlling Government and curbing its excesses for common good. The creation of Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry; oral and written questions as well as petitions are some of the instruments the Law provides for National Assembly to control Government action.
More often, it was “party discipline” that carried the day. Thus, it was an unwritten maxim that the fear of sanctions by one’s political party was the beginning of wisdom for MPs. Political analysts posit that it is difficult to really have a situation of checks and balances in a country where the separation of powers between the various arms of the State remains far-fetched. To them, there is only a slim margin between the ruling CPDM and the State.
Observers hold that if other provisions in the 1996 Constitution, including Article 66 that stipulates the declaration of assets by public officials, corruption, especially the embezzlement of public funds will be reduced to the barest minimum.