Governance of public contracts in Cameroon: An appraisal of the contribution of GIS in Menoua division Volume 5, Numéro 1

Gouvernance des marchés publics au Cameroun : une analyse de la contribution du SIG dans le département de la Menoua

Aristide YEMMAFOUO & Aloysious Kohtem LEBGA


Abstract: The role of GIS in the management of public contracts with reference to the Menoua Division in the Western Region of Cameroon was investigated experimentally. Data on public procurements is captured for a period of two years from Menoua Division administrative records. Public contracts are considered as one of the most complex, disputed and corrupted sectors in Cameroon despite awesome legal framework. In order to propose a long lasting solution to this problem, this paper uses Geographic Information System (GIS) to provide effective and efficient data management and follows up in the public contracts sector. This sector is dominated by malpractices which exist in almost all stages from projects initiation right up to handing over. Malpractices have caused the state and the local population to end up with non-executed but paid contracts or poorly executed contracts. The objective of the paper is to show how GIS contributes to different steps of public contracts management in order to make it more accountable and productive for the whole community. The methodology used is that of a case study applied to geo-localization of public contracts in the Menoua Division from 2014-2016. Major stakeholders were interviewed, and a GIS platform was setup to display spatial information on planned and executed contracts for better future contract planning.  

Keywords: Public Contracts, Governance, GIS, Handing Over, Menoua, Cameroon 

 

Résumé: Le rôle du SIG dans la gestion des marchés publics en référence au département de la Menoua situé dans la Région Ouest du Cameroun a été étudié expérimentalement. Les données sur les marchés publics ont été saisies sur une période de deux ans à partir des dossiers administratifs du département de la Menoua. Les marchés publics sont considérés comme l’un des secteurs les plus complexes, les plus contestés et les plus corrompus du Cameroun malgré l’existence d’un cadre juridique impressionnant. Afin de proposer une solution durable à ce problème, cet article utilise le Système d’Information Géographique (SIG) pour assurer une gestion efficace et efficiente des données et un suivi dans le secteur des marchés publics. Ce secteur est dominé par des malversations observées à presque toutes les étapes depuis l’initiation du projet jusqu’à sa réalisation. Les malversations ont amené l’État et la population locale à se retrouver avec des contrats non exécutés mais payés ou des contrats mal exécutés. L’objectif de cet article est de montrer comment le SIG contribue à l’amélioration de la gestion des différentes étapes des contrats publics afin de la rendre plus responsable et productive pour l’ensemble de la communauté. La méthodologie utilisée est celle d’une étude de cas appliquée à la géolocalisation des marchés publics dans le département de la Menoua de 2014-2016. Les principales parties prenantes ont été interviewées, et une plateforme SIG a été mise en place ; elle permet d’afficher des informations spatiales sur les contrats planifiés, exécutés et d’envisager une meilleure planification éventuellement.  

Mots clés: Marchés publics, Gouvernance, SIG, Réception, Menoua, Cameroun  

 

Plan

Introduction
Debate in literature
Militating for good governance in public affairs in developing countries
Tools used in public procurement and execution of contracts
Immediate needs assessment
Fieldwork and Data Collection
Results and discussion
Analysing the level of governance in the public contracts sector
Geo-localisation of contracts as from the early stage of initiation to handing over
Setting up of a GIS platform for monitoring and planning future contracts
Discussion
Conclusion

 

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INTRODUCTION

This paper promotes the use of GIS in order to provide effective and efficient data management and fellows up in the public contracts sector in Cameroon. The old method of infrastructural management which was mostly based on paper and excel spreadsheet file is outdated and has been proven to have a lot of loopholes as far as public contracts management and execution is concerned. GIS permit data incorporation, update and automatic generation of response to pertinent problems posed. In this caseproblem is dominated by malpractices which exist in almost all stages from projects initiation right up to handing over. This has cause the state and the local population to end up with non-executed but paid contracts or poorly executed contracts which at times are risky to human utilisation and with a very short life expectancy. There is a lack of an efficient tool like GIS which can efficiently check malpractices and other unlawful acts which generate injustices in the public contracts sector. From the question: how can GIS contribute to good governance in the public contracts sector in Cameroon? We assumed that geo-localisation of contracts and the availability of spatial information lead to accountability and transparency in the public contracts sector. The main objective of this research is to bring out clearly the contribution of GIS in making the public contracts sector more accountable as well as productive to the state. Mapping of public contracts permit a quick view of realization which goes a long way to facilitate decision making. The process of mapping public contracts has given rise to a spatial database which displays information on the level of execution. For better future planning, GIS platform reinforces transparency and accountability through it operations: data capture, queries, measurement, display, update, etc.

DEBATE IN LITERATURE

Militating for good governance in public affairs in developing countries

Project owners complain about lengthy procedures in the award and initiation of public contracts, institutional overload and acting as speed brakes in the under-consummation of public budget incompliance with the fiscal calendar. This lengthy and under-consummation has been the brain behind the current reform of the public contracts code in order to seek better solution. Wendy & al. (2007) look at the relationship between public procurement and good governance. They deduce that effective procurement practices provide government with a means of bringing about socio-economic and environmental reforms meanwhile malpractices within public procurement is a major source of corruption and financial loss. Beyegue (2010) noticed that the form of public policy in recent years has brought some elements of improvement compared to the previous state but questions if the multiplication of organs and procedures is likely not to generate complexity. The incompetence of the committee members, the presence of immense external pressure to manipulate the process and the lack of follow up as well as insufficient motivation remained major challenges to be address in developing countries (Adusei & Awunyo 2015).

Tools used in public procurement and execution of contracts

In Nigeria, Adebiyi & al. (2010) examined the setbacks of the existing procurement process with a view of offering an improved approach. They further designed a prototype e-Government Procurement system to eliminate the associate bottlenecks with the existing system and showcase the benefits of the proposed system which will reduce cost, improve administrative efficiency and control. The potential of public e-procurement technologies to reduced corruption in the public procurement process in some developing countries and emerging economies was explored by Neupane & al. (2012). They emphasized on the potential of public e-procurement to transparency, accountability and auditing. Azmi & Rahman (2015) analyses the implementation of electronic government in Malaysia, which has transformed the public service into a dynamic and diverse environment for government activities. Furthermore, he describes electronic procurement as a tool to mitigate fraudulent activities in public organisation by ensuring accountability, transparency and the achievement of best value for money contracts.

Immediate needs assessment

The linkage between public investment, growth and poverty reduction is widely explored (Anderson & al. 2006, Sukhadeo and Shenggen 2007, Agenor & al. 2008, Sanjaya and Nuriev, 2016). They examined ways to provide better guidance to policy-makers in the use of available techniques and information to set priorities for public investment. Ravinder & Rishi (2011) demonstrated that GIS is increasingly forming a part of the entire e-governance movement because it provide spatial planning and supply decision making system with visual presentation of facts in both temporal and comparison maps, thereby providing a better solution to governance related issues like distribution, resource allocation and the determination of site for public welfare projects. Nevertheless, the observation of Woldai (2002) is still real. Although Africa does not suffer from information “glut” yet, the legacy of database available suffers from inconsistency, duplication, quality, accuracy, spatial reference which makes it difficult for the standardisation of data. The available geospatial data are mostly in analogue paper and accessibility to it remained a common problem.

FIELDWORK AND DATA COLLECTION

The unavailability of getting national public contracts data has limited this study in the Menoua division. It is one of the eight Divisions of the Western Region of Cameroon with Dschang being its administrative Headquarter. Menoua is about 46 km from Bafoussam, 54 km from Mbouda and 350 km from Yaoundé. Menoua acts as a transit zone between Littoral and North West Region. This Division has six Sub Divisions which are Dschang, Penka Michel, Santchou, Fokoue, Nkong-Ni and Fongo-Tongo corresponding to six Councils (fig.1). It has a surface area of 138 km². In the 2005 population census, Menoua had 205 289 inhabitants including a student population of about 30 000. Since 2013, this division has the highest number of contracts in the West Region: Menoua Division had 72 contracts which amounted to 1 112 398 263 FCFA (2013), 73 contracts with a provisional amount of 1 055 500 000 FCFA (2014), 70 contracts which summed up to 1 241 000 000 FCFA in (2015) and 72 contracts with an envelope of 1 221 174 000 in 2016.

Figure_1

a) Represents the West Region in Cameroon, b) Menoua division in the West Region and  c) Menoua division
Source: National Institute of cartography –NIC (2007)
Figure 1: Location of the study area

This case study methodology is based on the geo-localisation of 181 public contracts in the Menoua Division from 2014-2016. These contracts encompass 34 constructions, 32 rehabilitation of roads, 47 classrooms, 7 health centres, and 61 boreholes among other. Major stakeholders in the process like Project owners, Contracting authorities, Contracting Engineers, Representative of Enterprises, Independent Observers and Beneficiary were interviewed using interview guide to analyse the level of governance. Geo-localisation was done in order to ensure a spatial base which will henceforth serve as a reference. Legal documents and journals equally act as secondary source which give a vivid diagnostic of governance in this sector.

Before tendering, it was proven that the technique of coding and decoding the tenders documents as well as bid in order to ensure fairness and equality. The timely award of contracts based on transparent and cost-efficient technique enhanced data integration because it limits complaints which could slow down the process. The quality of contracts is not only determined by the feasibility but study equally at the level of procurement and execution. Here, spatial control and execution ease spatial queries, measurement, display and update which facilitate control and contracts management (fig.2). The putting in place of a spatial database for future projects planning eliminates project duplication, non-executed but paid contacts.

Figure_2

Figure 2: GIS operations for public contracts governance

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Analysing the level of governance in the public contracts sector

Limited accessibility to public contracts

Before the advent of the Ministry in charge of Public Contracts in 2012, information on projects initiation to reception were mainly manipulated in the drawer by delegated contracting authority. Information on the estimated cost, notice to consultation, tender documents and execution were controlled by a particular set of people contrary to the public contracts code. The call for tenders were hardly paste on the notice board, accessibility was prohibited to many shareholders. The creation of the Public Contracts Regulatory Agency (PCRA) and the putting in place of the Public Contracts journal didn’t solved the problem of limited accessibility because this journal was unable to publish all consultation notices in time. With the prime objective to carry public contracts information closed to the shareholders and the population in particular, the Public Contracts Regulatory Agency developed a web platform to publish and manage public procurement. From 2013-2016, about 20-30 complains were deposited based on none or late publications of calls for tenders which necessitated the complete cancellation of some of these tenders. For example, PCRA has received seven complains in 2013, six in 2014, nine in 2015 and 2016 concerning non-publication of notice to tenders (fig.3).

Figure_3

Source: Data from the archives of the Menoua Divisional Delegation of Public Contracts (2013-2016)
Figure 3: Notices to tenders complains registered in Public Contracts Regulatory Agency (PCRA) by enterprises concerning Menoua Division (2013-2016)

Inequality in the treatments of candidates and unscrupulous procedures

Unequal treatment of candidates remained one of the greatest challenges in the public contracts sector. The fact that bids carry the names of bidders is an opportunity for the members of various commissions to give preferential treatment to their favorable. Despite the recent move and intensification toward decentralization led to the creation of five internal tender’s boards within the various Municipalities; Dschang, Nkong-Zem, Fongo –Tongo, Fokoue and Penka Michel, cases of favoritism and preferential treatment of candidates still remained sky rocking within this sector.

Many cases of over or under estimated quantities have been witnessed which led to additional clause thereby leading to additional expenditure from the state coffer or poor quality of realized contracts. For example, in 2014, the renovation of the Dschang Legal Departmental building and Renovation of the Fomopea Integrated Health Center were badly estimated. Thus the major tasks were never attained as well as many other contracts.

Geo-localisation of contracts as from the early stage of initiation to handing over

Geo-localization tool figures among the most effective, efficient tool in the creation and management of projects because of its spatial identity of X, Y and Z. Even though technological advancement and globalization have led to the development of mobile phones equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS), public contracts sector still remain virgin towards this move. Here, unrealized or poorly realized but paid contracts still remained the order of the day as well as duplication of contracts on paper. Since no two objects can occupy the same space and at the same time. Thus, the use of geo-localization from the early stage of initiation to reception will reduce these malpractices and enhance good governance in this sector. The creation and putting in place of a geodatabase serve as a data bank from present and future contracts based on three major cartographic implantations: Punctual, Linear and Zonal. The geo-localization of contracts and its visualization on maps based on the nature of projects, level of execution, funding body and contract engineer will facilitate follow up and decision making since the database will be updated on regular bases.

Spatial distribution of public contracts

The nature of ongoing Public Contracts in the Menoua Division ranges from construction, equipment, road, studies, water and energy (tab.1).

Tableau_1

Source: Compilation from the archives of the Menoua Divisional Delegation of Public Contracts (2013-2016)
Table 1: Ongoing Public contracts Project within Menoua division from 2013-2016

Spatial distribution (2014-2016) shows that projects are unequally distributed within the various councils (fig.4).

Figure_4

Source of data: Field work (2016)
Figure 4: Spatial distribution of public contracts in the Menoua Division (2014-2016)

Nkong-zem has a greater proportion. School projects occupied a higher proportion with more than 40%, followed by water 24% and other projects 36%. Thus Government Investment Plan is focused on education and water which fall under fundamental needs.

This specialization can facilitate sociopolitical decision making. For example, why are contracts concentrated in some council than other? One can question the pertinence of the criteria used in allocating contracts. The overlay of population and their needs within a single map give a better picture than literature. The Government and its decentralized organs should be focused on this mapping process to re-orientate their developmental plan year in year out.

Generate and deliver spatial information on the level of execution of public contracts

The level of execution of public contracts in the Menoua Division has witnessed Provisional reception (PHO), Final handing Over (FHA), Dispute and Terminated contracts (tab.2).

Tableau_2

Source: Field work and compilation from the archives of the Menoua Divisional Delegation of Public Contracts (2013-2016)
Table 2:  Level of execution of public contracts per Council (2014-2016)

GIS can help in monitoring and securing all the stages of public contracts process. The majority of contracts under execution are mainly water (drilling well). Late or slow execution is due to late submission of draft by projects Owners, project awarded to inexperienced companies or those with insufficient fund, heavy rainfall and others. 35,64% of contracts have undergone Provisional reception, 22,34% Final Handing Over, 0,53% Disputed, 18,62% Abandoned and 0,53% Terminated. More than half of these abandoned projects were registered in 2013. This was due to the transition between the former and new process of public contracts since 2012. Mapping show that both rural and urban councils are concerned with governance issue (fig.5).

Figure_5

The Source of data: Field work (2016)
Figure 5: Level of execution of Public contracts in the Menoua Division (2014-2016)

The non-respect of deadline shows that the processes of attribution and execution of contracts was not properly done. To this effect, GIS can help to follow up the level of consumption of deadline that can permit instantaneously comparison with the physical advancement of works in the field. About 58% of public contracts granted from 2014 through 2016 have been executed with lot of improvement on the quality of projects as compared to the previous years (fig.6). 22% of public contracts witness prolongation in the delivering deadline due to bad qualitative and quantitative estimates. Closed to 20% of Public contracts are badly disputed or abandoned. Six contracts of 2013 and 2014 have not been delivered up till now even though some bad practices were corrected by the contractors concerned. The use of bad material like sand, concrete (wrong mixture) and a series of malpractices have resulted to disputed projects (fig.7).

Figure_6 & 7

Setting up a GIS platform for monitoring and planning future contracts

GIS remains one of the most powerful tools that manages, shares data and transforms or displays it on digital or paper maps that can be analyzed and communicated to others. The application of GIS in the public contracts cycle helps to accelerate planning, design, coordinate contractors and subcontractors, manage multiple contracts and ease maintenance or innovative work. The manual planning and designing of public projects has become outdated because of short comings like duplication, lack of accuracy, displacement of projects and many others. The use of GPS, spatial database and other software applications save time, generate accurate information which is closer to reality. Four variables derived from the life cycle of public contracts were used to set the GIS platform (tab.3): – steps of public contracts, – Frequent occurrence of governance problems, – How GIS is used to solve these problems, – Technical description of GIS operations used.

Tableau_3

Table 3: Public Contracts life cycle, GIS and good governance enhancement

The systematic trace crossing of public contracts and GIS chain from contracts initiation or preparation to reception as demonstrated introduces a land mark control system power by Geo spatial tools. Thus, this goes a long way to eradicate drawer contracts award and execution as well as encouraged equal opportunity in the treatment of bids. From the above observation, GIS is credited in the public contracts system because it facilitates the role played by major stakeholders like contracting authorities, project owners, contracting engineers, contractors, funding bodies and others that ensures the ability to locate objects, calculate distance, analyse and project future phenomenon.

Spatial internet platform makes GIS more open and interactive in manipulating a wide range of information. Internet services play a vital role in the compilation and integration of spatial data. This makes it the largest data bank and the biggest distributor of spatial data. Thus the open displacement and manipulation of data on public contracts ensures equality and transparency among others which goes a long way to enhance governance. To add internet services, this platform permits users to get rapid information concerning projects, tender documents and other information based on the user’s request without any displacement.

Figure 8 shows a cross section of contracts life cycle, GIS and governance enhancement. A linear merge at any stage of contracts life cycle with GIS chain reinforce good governance in public procurement and realization. The meeting point (governance) gives a level ground to all stakeholders which uphold equality, competition and make it profitable through the principle of lower bidder. This landmark merge has the possibility of providing automatic answers to questions through queries thereby facilitate quick decision making.

Figure_8

Figure 8: Public Contracts life cycle, GIS and good governance enhancement

Figure 9 shows an example of query: select * from public contract where: “Level of execution of public contracts” = “Abandoned” or “Level of execution of public contracts” = “Disputed” or “Level of execution of public contracts” = “terminated”

Figure_9

Source of data: Field work (2016)
Figure 9: Example of GIS operation for public contracts governance

DISCUSSION

Developing countries have several difficulties on applying new technological advancement in the management of public contracts. Corruption still remains visible in the preparation and validation of projects, the award, and execution and follows up of public contracts. The role of technology in reinforcing governance has been highlighted (UN 2011, Najla & Rusu 2015). The Possibilities and limitations of Public E-Procurement have been explored (Neupane 2012, Adebiyi 2010, Azmi & Rahman, 2015). In this case study, GIS platform is an operational tool which regroups Project Owner, Contracting Authority, Contractor, Contract Engineer and Public Contracts Regulatory Agency in an interactive platform. This simply requires a structural and functional reconfiguration of the public contracts system. Equally, it does not necessary involve the recruitment of new personnel or the introduction of an additional stage in the public contracts process but the initiation of stakeholders in the manipulation of a simplified GIS interface for public contracts. The possibility of inconveniences linked to the effective functioning of this interface does not depend on the capacity of personnel but equally the means to its functioning for example the stable supply of electricity, the quality of internet and continues hardware maintenance. The difficulties involved in the development of metadata for geoinformation in Africa has been highlighted (Woldai, 2002). These inconveniences still remain visible in Cameroon but the recent construction of hydro-electric dams and optical fibres assure a brighter future for the public contracts sector. The year 2000 witnessed series of reforms in the public contracts code in African countries based on the recommendations of funding bodies (Basheka 2009, Beyegue 2010). The year 2017 marked a turning point in Cameroon’s public contracts system with the introduction of online public procurement in the centre tender board of the Ministry of Public Contracts. Whatever the case, public authorities are obliged to integrate GIS in order to ensured transparency and accountability in the management of state’s affairs.

CONCLUSION

The objective of this paper was to show how Geographic Information System (GIS can fight against malpractices in the public contracts sector in Cameroon. From the diagnosis of governance problems through the lifecycle of public contracts in the Menoua division, it shows the key GIS operations that can be used. GIS platform pave a way for the visualization of these projects and the need for storage has proven the importance of creating a spatial database and the projection of these projects in the map in order to minimize waste of resources and equitable planning. The non-existence of spatial database system in this ministerial department has resulted to tedious and archaic ways of treating, monitory and evaluation. The governance of public contracts using GIS provides an innovative approach to make local community incorporate spatial public contracts information and local knowledge to increase interactions between the local populations themselves and the contracts administration. In order to ease the governance of public contracts using GIS; free access to spatial data linked to the public contracts, public contracts information system have been simplified, clean and given a possibility of regular update. Also, the application of GIS in the management of public projects as proven by this research is a fundamental aspect of good governance and has as potential to secure the achievement of Cameroon development goals. GIS through query will do away with fictitious contracts, identify abandoned contracts and badly executed contracts to decision maker with concrete proof. But the main doubt resides on the adoption of GIS in the process, because it is a new tool to be acquired by decision-makers who are not always transparent in the management of public affairs.

 

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To cite this article

Electronic reference

Aristide Yemmafouo & Aloysious Kohtem Lebga (2018). « Governance of public contracts in Cameroon: An appraisal of the contribution of GIS in Menoua division ». Canadian journal of tropical geography/Revue canadienne de géographie tropicale [Online], Vol. (5) 1. Online in May 15, 2018, pp. 01-07. URL: http://laurentian.ca/cjtg

 

Authors

Aristide YEMMAFOUO
Associate Professor
University of Dschang
Cameroon
E-mail: ayemmafouo@yahoo.fr

 

Aloysious Kohtem LEBGA
Researcher
National Institute of Cartography
Youande, Cameroon
E-mail: lebga1989@gamil.com

 

 

 

Volume 5, Numéro 1
ISSN 2292-4108