/Internal functioning and strengths of the Bamenda City Council
The vision of the Bamenda City Council is to enhance participatory sustainable urban development and governance. Like all City Councils in Cameroon, this Council is run by a City Board, made up of two arms: the executive, constituted by the Government Delegate (Grand Mayor), who is appointed by the Head of State, and a Secretary General, also appointed by the Head of State; and the deliberative arm, made up of elected councillors selected from the local councils.
In the case of Bamenda, there are three local councils (Bamenda I, Bamenda II and Bamenda III) that are under the municipal jurisdiction of the Bamenda City Council. Deliberations voted at the City Board sessions have to be sanctioned by the supervisory authority before they become municipal law, and only then can they be executed by the executive arm of the City Council.
The day to day management of the Bamenda City Council is guided by an organisational chart, adapted from that proposed by the tutelary Ministry, in accordance with the staff strength of the City Council as well as its vision. The vote-holder of the City Council is the Government Delegate, and the general administrator is the Secretary General. There are four principal Departments and a Municipal Treasury that are fully operational, rendering some of the following principal services:
Department of Urban Development
Town planning: authorising building permits according to laid-down norms and in accordance with the Master Plan of the city.
Developing greens, recreational facilities and parks, with feasibility studies completed, pending Public-Private Partnerships.
Department of Technical Services
Infrastructure: opening and maintaining existing roads; building and maintenance of bridges and culverts.
Maintenance of public buildings, like markets.
Maintenance of public lighting system.
Department of Administration and Human Resources
Personnel and career management.
Management of archives.
Management of public library.
Civil status registry (births, marriages and deaths).
Department of Finance
Budget preparation and execution.
Preparation of Management Accounts.
III. Weakness and areas of remedial focus
In rendering some of the afore-mentioned services, the Bamenda City Council has some major short-comings:
The Cameroonian Law on Decentralisation, through which some powers and means are being devolved to local and City Councils, is in itself a major short-coming for the following reasons:
• The vote-holder, the principal manager of the City Council, has limited powers to implement even decisions arrived at through a City Board deliberation, and sanctioned into Municipal Law by the supervisory authority. For instance, any decision which requires the use of the forces of law and order cannot be executed by the Government Delegate without the intervention of the supervisory authority.
• The autonomy of the City Council to collect revenue is not total. Revenue destined for the City Council is still channelled through the State treasury, and the assessment of taxes is still done by the central government. As such, the council does not have a grip on the taxes it is supposed to collect.
• In many decentralised systems over the world, a certain percentage of the State budget is sent down for local governance, like in the case of Rwanda, where the percentage stands at 15. This is not the case in Cameroon; whereas, if only 10% of our annual budget were to be sent down for local governance, then most of our sustainable development projects would be executed with ease.
• We are able to clean our streets using local companies, which employ over 150 workers. Yet, we are unable to select and treat our waste through recycling and transformation, consequent on very limited means and lack of appropriate expertise.
• Our annual budget is about CFA three billion, five hundred million (about $7 million), and with very little State subvention, we can only source for PPP ventures, with all the hurdles that go into it. For this reason, many of our urban development projects, which have been fully developed, are yet to take-off.
Remedial focus: Participatory, people-centred approach
In order for the services rendered to the public to be able to positively impact lives, we must endeavour to turn our weaknesses into strengths. The only way for us to do this is through our long-term strategic planning. As such, in line with existing laws in force in Cameroon, we are setting up a local Public-Private Partnership Commission at the level of the Bamenda City Council, charged with drafting and following up conventions for the execution of all our envisaged projects.
Some of our case studies are the following:
1. An Ultra-Modern Multi-Purpose Bus Station, worth over CFA five billion (about $10 million) to serve the over 80% of the dynamic population in the North West Region, who are involved in agriculture. This will also ease access to markets in other Regions and neighbouring countries. Once the on-going Bamenda-Enugu express highway shall be completed, Bamenda, the Regional capital of the North West, shall be open to a West African market of close to 300 million people. This venture is expected to generate an average of about CFA 5 million (about $10,000) daily for the coffers of the City Council.
2. The construction of three Modern Commodity Markets, worth about CFA 20 billion (about $40 million), expected to generate about CFA three billion (about $6 million) annually for the City Council.
3. 500 hectares of land have been earmarked to be reclaimed, which shall be developed into City Greens, Parks and Squares; Municipal Lakes; City Canals; new roads and a housing scheme. This is an investment of about CFA 150 billion (about $300 million), and expected income from the sale of reclaimed lands is about CFA 200 billion (about $400 million).
Bamenda has huge potentials for growth, as its people are very hardworking and productive. The City Council, in its option for sustainable development, is committed to making life enviable, creating a metropolis that could be a model for other urban set-ups. This can only be achieved through holistic partnerships, which include improved governance, Public-Private Partnerships, Build-Operate-Transfer ventures, twining, and sharing of best practices. Thus, the Bamenda City Council is open to all actors and partners.