Citizen’s mobilization efforts against corruption contained in the context of the IGI-FITCAM university transparency initiative in Cameroon (UB 2009-2011), constitute a valid approach in translating citizens’ knowledge about corruption into citizen’s action against corruption. Through a combination of focus training and actual tracking exercises, a critical mass of anti-corruption advocates emerged and stretched internal political will to a point of response to accountability and transparency needs; thereby powering institutional responsibility for follow-up to instances of traced corruption in procurement, examination, budget management, student-lecturer-relationship, employment and professional misconduct in UB.
Encouraging greater benefactor oversight of state university governance (in the context of UB) reassures campus tranquility and encourages productivity more generally; on the contrary, disconnectedness and sheer observation only, bolsters “shorthand corrupt practices” from junior staff and students trying to play the same corrupt game. The incidence of limited community oversight and popularization of sanctioning measures were huge and dangerous in an environment considered a place of learning such as UB.
In an effort to enhance a weakened trajectory of transparency and professionalism within the board spectrum of tracked corrupt practices in UB, IGI-FITCAM with the support of Partnership for Transparency Fund in 2009 undertook the UB 1 University Transparency Initiative Project tagged “strengthening the internal mechanism of UB to curb corruption and promote ethics”.
Though UB internal administrative machinery was working, it operated void of a strong functional oversight mechanism that could overhaul or place speed brakes on the wheels of corrupt practices broadly tracked by IGI-FITCAM.
The institutionalization of the unit of Internal Control and Evaluation (ICE) proved too centralized for the well-decentralized threads of corrupt practices in UB by 2009. Following a reform from the Cameroon Ministry of Higher Education all State Universities were to establish a sub-committee for the fight against corruption and promotion of ethics with membership composed and spread throughout all the faculties. Conscious of the need for a more wide- spread governance oversight in UB, the Vice Chancellor of UB established an anti-corruption and ethics sub-committee represented in all UB faculties but without any formal or informal training.
UB nonetheless became the premiere state university to have instituted the new anti-corruption reform. Key concerns of IGI-FITCAM’s support effort therefore was to equip and constructively engage UB sub-committees into actions geared at establishing a comprehensive template of corrupt practices in UB more generally. This will assist it in designing appropriate internal measures for reducing and curbing the practices observed.
The comprehensive template was established alongside potential strategies but the university’s top administration refused to adopt and accept the implementation of the new measures proposed.
The program and its proposals notwithstanding witnessed strong resistance from UB management who felt exposed and threatened; these led to strategic alliances within the central machinery to gag the continued spread of the activities under the initiative on campus. In order to maintain the effort’s momentum IGI-FITCAM sort political will from the Minister of Higher Education who then facilitated the work of IGI-FITCAM not only in the University of Buea but in all State Universities in Cameroon as well. To exploit the political support that the Minister of Higher Education provided to intensify the work, IGI requested for a UB II grant support from PTF to consolidate the reinforcement of UB’s internal mechanism to curb corruption more widely within the faculties.
The support enabled IGI-FITCAM to increase capacity enrichment more broadly. Thus stretching out to UB’s anti corruption and ethics subcommittee and student leaders of the university who had not received any technical training surrounding efforts to reduce corruption, deepen trust, increase accountability and communication with each other.
With a critical mass of not just informed but trained anti-corruption advocates in UB now enlarged and well spread, the UB Department for Internal control and Evaluation has been able to exercise a more effective oversight on managerial and academic activities more broadly within the faculties and central administration. This reinforcement has enabled the detection of various malpractices from the departments, right up to management at the central administration of the university, and the institution of recommendations suggested under the UB I project.
Increasingly, IGI-FITCAM has observed UB students, support staff and lecturers take up strikes and on campus protest actions to determine priorities in the university’s budgeting, spending and also, in demanding accountability.
In an effort to publicize, new changes within the university IGI-FITCAM released a progress study reporting various aspects of recent improvements and corrupt practices, which have so far been hindered in UB following the IGI-FITCAM/PTF UB initiative.
The overall structured activities embarked under this project as well as assessment of its general impact on UB and the wider university sector in Cameroon are captured in the lines of this report.