DeLoG Local Heroes: Inspiring Stories of Change and Impact
Margaret Lukong Beri, a dedicated local hero, served as the First Deputy Mayor of Kumbo Council from 2002 to 2020. Her exceptional leadership and advocacy for transparent and accountable local governance improved the lives of the residents in the Kumbo region of Cameroon. During the municipal elections of 2020, her party was ousted due to the prevailing crisis, leaving them with no opportunity to participate in future contests. Nevertheless, Margaret's commitment to public service remained unwavering. Her tenure left a lasting impact on the community.
DeLoG: In your experience, what were the main challenges you faced in promoting effective decentralization and local governance for public service delivery in Cameroon? How did you address these challenges, and what lessons did you learn from them?
Margaret: The first and most significant challenge I encountered as Deputy Mayor, particularly regarding decentralization, was the insufficient availability of finances. The lack of funds consistently presented a major obstacle to the implementation of various projects. The needs and aspirations of the population consistently exceeded the financial resources at our disposal.
Confronted with such a situation, we focused on managing what we could within our limited means. Additionally, we actively sought funding from external sources, rather than relying solely on government funds.
Another challenge we faced was our affiliation with the opposition party. This sometimes led to difficulties in collaborating smoothly with certain government officials, as they perceived us as rivals. However, we endeavored to overcome this by consistently performing our duties exceptionally well. We consistently stood out in all our endeavors, demonstrating our commitment to working for the benefit of the entire nation. Over time, government officials began to understand our intentions, and our working relationships improved significantly.
DeLoG: As a former female deputy mayor in Cameroon, can you share some insights into the role of decentralization and local governance in improving the delivery of public services in your region? What were some of the notable achievements in this regard during your tenure?
Margaret: Decentralization and local governance played a key role in improving the delivery of public services in the Northwest region of Cameroon. The region had been facing multiple challenges, such as a lack of access to basic services, low capacity of local government, corruption, and poor service delivery. To address these challenges, the Government of Cameroon adopted a decentralization policy to ensure the equitable delivery of public services.
This policy involved transferring powers and functions from the central government to local governments in the region, while also ensuring equitable access to services for all. By implementing decentralization, the government aimed to empower local authorities and enable them to effectively address the needs of their communities. This shift toward local governance aimed to foster greater accountability, responsiveness, and efficiency in the provision of public services.
Through the decentralization process, the Northwest region of Cameroon began to experience improvements in the delivery of public services. Local governments gained greater decision-making authority and resources, allowing them to better allocate resources and address the specific needs of their constituents. The emphasis on local governance also fostered a more participatory and inclusive approach, as community members had a more significant role in shaping and influencing local policies and service provision.
Overall, the implementation of decentralization in the Northwest region of Cameroon had a positive impact on the delivery of public services. It helped address the challenges the region faced, promoted fair access to services, and empowered local governments to be more responsive to the needs of their communities.
DeLoG: Could you provide examples of specific initiatives or projects that you spearheaded to enhance public service delivery at the local level? How did these initiatives involve and engage the local community, and what impact did they have on the overall quality of public services?
Margaret: For instance, the implementation of the decentralization policy has significantly streamlined service delivery in the health sector. This policy has effectively enhanced access to healthcare services by granting local governments greater autonomy in managing health services. It has allowed them to customize the delivery of services based on the specific needs of the local communities.
Furthermore, the decentralization policy has played a pivotal role in improving access to education in the region. Through the transfer of powers and responsibilities from the central government to local governments, the regional administration has been able to develop education plans and policies that are specifically designed to cater to the unique requirements of the local population. Consequently, this has resulted in improved access to high-quality education throughout the region.
In summary, the principles of decentralization and local governance have made a significant impact on enhancing the provision of public services in the Northwest region of Cameroon. By devolving powers and functions from the central government to local authorities, the regional government has been able to tailor services to address local needs effectively. This approach ensures equitable access to services and contributes to the overall improvement of public service delivery in the region.
DeLoG: What measures do you believe are crucial for ensuring transparency and accountability in local governance with respect to public service provision in Cameroon? Were there any mechanisms or strategies that you implemented to promote these principles during your time as deputy mayor?
Margaret: Ensuring transparency and accountability in local governance regarding the provision of public services in Cameroon is of utmost importance. Implementing crucial measures can greatly contribute to achieving this goal. Firstly, it is essential to grant local governments the autonomy to make decisions while holding them accountable for the outcomes. This involves providing them with the necessary resources and freedom to determine how public services are delivered and ensuring they are answerable for the consequences of their decisions.
Another vital measure for enhancing transparency and accountability in local governance is to promote public participation in decision-making processes. This can be achieved by ensuring citizens have access to accurate information regarding public services and establishing platforms for them to provide input on service delivery preferences. By doing so, local governments can be held accountable for the decisions they make, as they actively engage with and consider the voices of their constituents.
Furthermore, encouraging local governments to adopt good governance practices, such as implementing open budgeting and financial management processes, is crucial. These practices help ensure prudent utilization of public funds and efficient allocation of resources, fostering transparency and accountability in service provision.
Lastly, it is imperative to establish robust monitoring mechanisms to hold local governments accountable for their actions. Adequate monitoring should be in place to identify any breaches of trust, and those responsible should be held accountable for their actions or decisions.
In conclusion, improving transparency and accountability in local governance concerning public services provision in Cameroon necessitates empowering local governments with autonomy and resources, increasing public participation in decision-making processes, implementing good governance practices, and enforcing accountability for the outcomes of their decisions. By implementing these measures, the transparency and accountability of local governance can be significantly enhanced.
DeLoG: As a female leader in local governance, did you face any gender-related obstacles or biases in your efforts to improve public service delivery? How did you navigate these challenges, and do you believe that gender equality and women's participation are essential for effective decentralization and local governance in Cameroon?
Margaret: As a female leader, I was fortunate not to encounter any gender bias during my tenure. I attribute this to the fact that I had the privilege of working under the guidance of a mayor who strongly believed in and practiced the principle of gender equality. Responsibilities and tasks were distributed among deputy mayors without any regard for gender, ensuring equal opportunities for both males and females.
Furthermore, our council had a dedicated Gender Committee that played a crucial role in ensuring that all activities undertaken by the council were carried out with sensitivity to gender issues. This committee worked diligently to promote gender equality and ensure that the needs and perspectives of all genders were taken into account in decision-making processes. Their efforts greatly contributed to creating an inclusive and fair environment within our organization.