Regional, Local Authorities : Understanding The Bill on General Code

The bill has 501 sections subdivided into seven books.

Government on December 13, 2019 during the extraordinary session of Parliament tabled  the bill to Institute the General Code of Regional and Local Authorities. The bill was prepared following the General Conference on Councils that took place on February 6-7, 2019 and the Major National Dialogue held in Yaounde  from September 30 to October 4, 2019 which all offered the opportunity to take stock of the decentralisation  process  and in particular the functioning of councils.

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In the explanatory statement, government argues that the bill compiles all laws related to  Regional and Local Authorities into a single document and represents the determination to fast-track  and deepen the decentralisation process.  What is particular about the bill is that it has books that handle different aspects of the decentralisation process in the country.

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The Books

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-There is the Preliminary Book that has the preliminary provisions such as the definition of the purpose and scope of the code, specifies that  the North West and South West Regions have a special status based on their linguistic specificity  reflected in the educational and legal systems. This book underscores the need to uphold national unity, territorial integrity, primacy of the State, equality of dignity of regional and local authorities.

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-Book I: The Book restates the main provisions of Law No. 2004/17 of 22 July 2004 on the Decentralisation policy. What is particular with the book is that it contains innovations. The bill makes the powers devolved exclusive powers of the regional and local authorities, though government services may exercise such powers only under certain conditions. The financial resources for the execution of the powers are no longer included in the budgets of ministries but allocated directly to councils. To strengthen citizens participation, the population is involved in all phases of the preparation and execution of the budget, programmes and projects and in the establishment of neighbourhood or village committees in councils. State supervision has been substantially relaxed to  ensuring legality and providing advisory support. State budget allocated as General Decentralisation Grants may not be less than 15 per cent.

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-Book II: It specifies the status and duties of local elected officials, their rights, obligations to their duties and residence. It also talks about the benefits officials enjoy.

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-Book III:  Focuses on the rules applicable to councils. Among the rules are the recruitment and management of nurses and paramedical staff of integrated health centres and subdivisional health centres, preschool, primary and nursery school teachers. It also envisages the change of name from City Council to “City” preceded by the name of the agglomeration concerned. Government Delegate will become the Mayor of the City, elected by Councillors of the City council and must hail from one of the sub-divisional councils of the City.

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Book IV:  This book treats the rules applicable to Regions. The specificity is the special status granted to the North West and South West Regions with regards to organisation and functioning. For the North West and South West Regions, in particular, government has proposed the institution of a Public Independent Conciliator who is an independent authority responsible for receiving claims concerning the functioning of regional government services,  local authorities and public enterprises and establishments in their relations with citizens.

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-Book V:  The book focuses on the financial regime of Regional and Local Authorities. It therefore proposes a better definition of the rules for preparing, voting, executing and controlling budgets, as well as the involvement of the population in the process. It further proposed the separation of the duties of authorising officer and accounting officer.

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Book VI: This is the last book of the bill related to miscellaneous, transitional and final provisions. It therefore specifies the deadline for the entry into force of some provisions concerning municipal policing, recruitment, budgeting, cost accounting and accrual accounting. In the book is also outlined the transitional measures relating to the establishment of the local civil service as well as the transfer by the State of staff and movables and immovable property to local authorities in case of complete devolution of powers to the said authorities.

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