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Official recognition of file-fighters, necessary

26 September 2017 No Comment

By Ayuk Tobias Oru

Talking about West Cameroon in his letter to the government of Cameroon at the point of his resignation from any public office, Dr. J.N. Foncha stated: “Our socio-economic system, as far as I know, was far better understood and fast developing than what was experienced in East Cameroon, even after reunification. Our administrative system was clear and precise, with safeguards and enough ‘ checks and balances’; and it was only left for us to make it understood and appreciated by all concerned, rather than the ‘trial and error system’ which we have been subjected to swallow since 1972.”
What other judgment can be more apt than the thorough assessment of one who had been the Prime Minister of West Cameroon and as well the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Cameroon? Who can even be better placed to compare and control the two administrative systems through which the Anglophone people of the nation have been passing? A comparison between the system of checks and balances, and one of trial and error, is more or less the comparison between daylight and night. And indeed, one cannot actually fault the Anglophones of today for expressing their disenchantment with the incumbent administrative mechanism.
We can readily understand that the uncommon number of ministers in this country is meant to facilitate the machinery of government. And from the look of things the Head of State means well for the people of Cameroon, by creating this multiplicity of ministries despite our very limited funds. Even the richest nation in the world, the United States, cannot boast of half the number of our ministries. Moreover, the population of Cameroon cannot be compared to the one in a good number of its fifty states. What then should the President do to the oil the machinery of government for it to move on smoothly? Why has the problem of bureaucracy and its bottle-necks become a clog to the wheels of our government?
The President of Cameroon has on several occasions condemned the unacceptable high degree of bureaucracy and red-tape which beclouds the administration of the country. The truth must be said that the great majority of civil servants have been made offscourings and refuse among other workers in the country due to the ingrained misconduct of secretaries in our various ministries. Our specific ministries, as well as the Public Service, are more or less unbarred prisons for most civil servants. Nobody can persuasively explain what happens in the ministries whenever the file of a civil servant arrives there. Can one truly understand how one’s file gets lost in the process of its movement from one office to another? Why is the composition of the files in this process a recurrent issue? Is there any reason why some personalities should not pay dearly for their irresponsibility in handling the documents of civil servants?
Many things have gone the humdrum way because the personnel at the various secretariats. They have been performing their duties lackadaisically in total disregard of the suffering of their colleagues on the field; yet nothing is ever done to check their excesses. How does it make sense for a civil servant to work for about thirty years, the appropriate time for retirement, without being fully integrated into the Public Service? What holds back a secretariat from dispatching a letter to the next ministry after eight years? Who should be held responsible for this criminal neglect and punishment on the part of the aggrieved public servant? These are questions and many others which should be answered by those-who-matter in government. In fact, the situation is quite disgusting, more especially as it is observed that the personnel of various ministries are deliberately nonchalant of their duties for reasons not unconcerned with wanting to exploit other civil servants. For this reason, a particular service seems to have emerged from the blues, the service of file-fighters.
A cursory observation of activities in our ministries easily points to the fact that what prevails here is a sort of “man-know-man” business. A public servant from the region readily gets lost since nobody pays attention to him, except he decides to corner one of the secretaries thereabout. By cornering a secretary means inviting him for a one on one discussion, motivating him with some money and promising to pay him a percentage of the eventual financial fall-out. Even then, most of these gentlemen dishonour the agreement until the next meeting. Indeed, the civil servant at the region is truly distressed. No one in the ministry is ready to work honestly and selfless for the nation. He must, as a custom, ask for some stipends in order to perform the state-duty for which he was employed and salaried. If almost all of them can boast of personal cars, it is simply because they don’t depend on their monthly wages.
This time around, there is some sort of connection between the staff of various ministries with a growing syndicate of file –fighters, call the file-movers if you like. These are usually well dressed and important-looking gentlemen who parade the vicinities of our ministries to chase documents from one office to the other. They are most often unemployed youths who feel they can make themselves useful by running these errands for new recruits or disgruntled public servants who hardly know the trick of bribery and corruption in our government machinery. They know those-who-matter in any ministry; as such they easily break through any administrative web. This is not a matter of today; it has all along existed with our francophone administrative machinery. And it is not today that it will come to an end.
We might therefore be stupid to condemn a system which is deep-rooted in our administration. These file-chasers don’t need to present an identity card before entering any office whereas we, as public servants are asked to wait outside even when it is the appropriate time for a visit. One would be expressing one’s folly b y ignoring their importance before frustrated civil servants who travel severally to Yaounde to chase documents. Methinks a ministry for documentation should be created in the various regions so that civil servants easily get in contact with these powerful youths instead of taking the risk of going to Yaounde now and them.

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