Appointments In Public Enterprises : Legal Expert Focuses Debate On Constitutional Provisions
Social media leaks on official documents have of late attracted discussions on the duration in office of government appointees in State-run enterprises.
Tabloids as well as radio and television channels in most towns in the country have since 17 August 2019 carried divergent opinion on the legal provisions governing the tenure of office of board chairs, Directors- General and deputy Directors-General of public and para-public companies across the country. The trigger came from the supposed correspondence signed by the Minister of State, Secretary General at the Presidency to the Secretary General of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Minister Delegate at the Presidency in charge of the Supreme State Audit. Both official documents concerned the appointment of those to manage State-owned enterprises following provisions of law N° 2017/010 and 2017/011 of 12 July 2017 and the decree of application signed on 19 of June 2019 by the President of the Republic.
The first text talks of the prerogatives of the Head of State in appointing the board chair, the General Manager and Deputy in such companies, a provision which is also well taken care of by the Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon. The second text recalls the responsibilities of Ministries that oversee the functioning of the various government enterprises. It is perhaps important to recall that the Cabinet in Cameroon forms part of the Executive arm of Government which is different from the Legislative and the Judiciary.
It was therefore obvious that the Minister of State, Secretary General at the Presidency should, on behalf of the Head of State, remind the ministries with oversight responsibilities in the government companies concerned to stay with the duties assigned to them while understanding that the power to appoint high officials in the said structures rests with the President of the Republic. Speaking to Cameroon Tribune of Wednesday 21 August 2019, Professor Magloire Ondoa, Rector of the University of Douala who is a expert in Public Law and Political Scientist stated categorically that the Constitution is supreme and ought to prevail in case of any doubts.
Article 8 (1) says that; “The President of the Republic shall represent the State in all aspects of public life.” While in sub-section 10 of the same Article 8, it is stated that; “He shall appoint to civil and military posts of State.” The law Professor has further pointed out a number of clarifications on the issues as far as the legal interpretations are concerned.
Power of Appointment
He says the state-run companies form an integral part of the administration and consequently, it is the prerogative of the Head of State to designate whosoever he deems competent to manage any government-owned company. Since the companies are part of the administration, he adds that they are as such part of the executive and should be perceived as such. Furthermore, the Constitution does not state any limit to the powers of the Head of State concerning when and who can be appointed.
Clarifications on Legal texts
Professor Magloire Ondoa equally explains that the law gives the Head of the State the latitude to freely choose those to appoint to civil and military posts. The time and the circumstances have not been indicated by the Constitution, thereby giving the President of the Republic a free hand on when and who to select for appointment in any state-run enterprise at a given moment best suitable for him.
The Right interpretation
While the debate has been dragging on in various directions with several observation giving their views on what they think should go best in the designation of those to manage government companies, the Professor thinks that the best answer should be the Constitution of the land. Once it has been respected, there is no other way people can talk of violation of texts, he argues. He notes that if public opinion on a government decision like the appointment of board chairs, Directors general and their deputies are based only on the 2017 laws mentioned above without taking into consideration the Constitution, then such discussions are faulty.