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Corruption is endemic in Cameroon and significantly increases the costs and risks of doing business. Bribery, nepotism and corruption are rife in Cameroon's judicial system and public services, and customs is another sector of significant corruption risks. The legal and regulatory systems are non-transparent and difficult for foreign companies to navigate. In addition, there is a lack of effective regulations, insufficient law enforcement and significant delays in courts. Cameroon's Penal Code (in French) criminalises corruption, bribery, extortion and bribery of foreign public officials, and corruption is punishable by a prison term of five years to life, a fine of up to USD 4,000 fine and/or asset seizure. Facilitation payments are not addressed in Cameroon's legislation. Insufficient implementation of anti-corruption legislation coupled with impunity among public officials leads to very high corruption risks across all sectors.
Last updated: June 2015
GAN Integrity Solutions
Widespread corruption and nepotism plague Cameroon's judicial system. Judicial officials accept bribes in exchange for dropping charges, a reduction in prison sentence or a release. The judiciary is inefficient, non-transparent and has an inadequate tracking system of cases, resulting in lengthy court delays. Judges are susceptible to executive influence and delay judicial proceedings when pressured (HRR 2013). The amount of time required to resolve a dispute and to enforce contracts greatly exceeds Sub-Saharan Africa regional averages (DB 2015). Cameroon's judiciary lacks adequate resources and expertise. Companies should be aware that legal rights, including contract and property claims, can be difficult to protect due to extensive corruption in courts (BTI 2014). The process of dispute settlement is ineffective and oppressive as a result of courts being unreliable, very slow and selective in enforcing legislation (ICS 2014). Companies perceive the judiciary to be significantly influenced by politicians and high-level officials (GCR 2014-2015). Cameroonians perceive the judiciary to be the most corrupt public institution in the country (GCB 2013).
Cameroon's police force is inefficient, poorly trained and plagued by corruption. Police officers demand bribes at checkpoints and in exchange for granting unlawful freedom to detainees. Corrupt police officials make arrests and abuse individuals in exchange for monetary rewards from influential entities (HRR 2013). Bribes and facilitation payments are often demanded by police officers to deliver services, and most companies report paying a bribe when dealing with Cameroon's police (AEC 2012). Cameroonian police can not be relied upon to enforce law and order or to protect foreign companies from fraud, theft and crime (GCR 2014-2015). Almost all Cameroonians consider the police to be corrupt (GCB 2013).
Cameroon's public services represent an area of high risk of corruption. Bribery, abuse of office and embezzlement are widespread among senior public employees and are embedded in the culture of personal and business relations (BTI 2014). Electricity officers often extort informal payments from companies in exchange for service, while telecommunications officers are among the least corrupt public public officials (AEC 2012). Companies report corruption is among the most problematic factor for doing business in Cameroon, and dealing with burdensome administrative requirements further implicates the process of operating a business (GCR 2014-2015). Corruption risks are further exacerbated by a non-transparent revenue collecting system and opaque licensing processes for extractive industries (RGI 2013). Nevertheless, the total number of procedures and time required to register a firm in Cameroon is less than in the rest of the region (DB 2015).
The processes of acquiring property and purchasing land titles in Cameroon are problematic due to corruption and the inconsistent application of legislation. Businesses report that protection of property rights is not adequate in Cameroon, making foreign investment vulnerable to bribery, extortion and other risks (GCR 2014-2015); the unlawful confiscation of private property also sometimes occurs (BTI 2014). Companies report spending almost twice as much time complying with the procedures related to registering property in Cameroon than in neighbouring countries, placing it among the worst countries in the world for dealing with land authorities (DB 2015).
Most companies report paying bribes in interactions with Cameroonian tax officials (AEC 2012). Businesses consider tax regulations and tax rates to be among the most problematic factors for doing business (GCR 2014-2015), spending more than twice the amount of time to prepare, file and pay taxes in Cameroon than in other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (DB 2015). Cameroon's tax officials are perceived to be the among the most corrupt in Central Africa (ACB 2013). Tax evasion, corruption and embezzlement constitute the majority of the financial crimes committed in Cameroon (ICS 2014).
Customs is among the most corrupt public sectors in Cameroon. Corruption at the border and burdensome import procedures represent the two most problematic factors for trade for foreign companies (GETR 2014). Burdensome tariffs, a lack of transparency and demands for irregular payments when importing and exporting goods across Cameroon's borders increase corruption risks and costs of doing business (GETR 2014). Most companies report paying facilitation payments and bribes when dealing with customs officials (AEC 2012). Businesses report that making an irregular payment to Cameroonian customs officers lessens the time for clearing imported goods from several weeks to a couple of days (AEC 2012). Systemic fraud and corruption occur within Cameroon's customs administration despite the government's efforts to introduce anti-corruption reforms to the sector (World Bank, Feb. 2014).
Most government tenders in Cameroon require competitive bidding, but objectivity in the process of choosing contractors is often breached due to corruption. Cameroon's public procurement is plagued by bribery and fraud at every step of the process. The public tender process lacks transparency, and officials are not held accountable for corrupt practices. Cameroon's government has introduced specific anti-corruption measures for public contracts to streamline the process and to decrease levels of corruption (ICS 2014). Foreign companies are recommended to use a public procurement due diligence tool to mitigate corruption risks related to public procurement in Cameroon.
The Cameroonian forestry sector is plagued by corruption: Extensive bribery among senior officials, civil servants and companies fuels illegal logging, and logging permits are granted unlawfully to foreign logging companies by officials in exchange for bribes (GW 2013). State officials allegedly collect more than EUR 46 million in bribes per year from illegal logging practices (CHH 2013). Cameroon's government has attempted to control corrupt practices in this sector without any significant results, largely because of ineffective regulations and lax law enforcement (GW 2013).
Cameroon does not effectively implement corruption-related legislation, leading to pervasive corruption at all levels of government (HRR 2013). Cameroon's Penal Code (in French) criminalises active and passive bribery, extortion, bribing a foreign official, money laundering and misuse of public funds for private gain. Criminal penalties for corruption include a prison term of five years to life, a fine of up to USD 4,000 and asset seizure. In cases of theft and embezzlement of public funds, the corruption charges can be dropped if the money is repaid to the government. Article 66 of Cameroon's Constitution, which requires government officials and civil servants to declare their assets and property, is not enforced. The Cameroonian Code of Ethics (in French) addresses conflicts of interest and provides regulations for ethical conduct of civil servants in all public institutions. The Public Contract Code (in French) regulates public procurement, provides for open competition procedure and forbids the fractioning of public contracts. Any company found guilty of corruption in the process of government procurement can be given a two-year suspension from bidding on any public contracts. Civil servants and private-sector employees are not legally protected from recrimination or other negative consequences when they report cases of corruption. Cameroon has ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and has signed but not yet ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption.
The Constitution of Cameroon provides for freedoms of speech and press, but the government restricts these rights in practice. The government financially supports media outlets supportive and favourable of the government, and officials use criminal libel and defamation laws to pursue and intimidate independent newspapers that report on corruption and economic policies. Critical journalists face threats, harassment, arrests and reprisals (HRR 2013). The freedom of information is very limited; documents and statistics are not made freely available to the public or the media. Journalists extensively practice self-censorship and withhold from criticising individual officials (FitW 2014). The media environment is considered 'not free' (FotP 2014).
A large part of the Cameroon's civil society is represented by strong church-based organisations. Civil society organisations (CSOs) can be formed freely, but many are created by state officials who seek to profit from external assistance programmes. The government exercises control over anti-corruption CSOs and their activity, otherwise being indifferent to civic engagement in socio-economic activities (BTI 2014). The government prevents CSOs from holding press conferences on the issues of corruption or abuse of office (HRR 2013).
- World Bank & IFC: Doing Business 2015.
- World Economic Forum: Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015.
- World Economic Forum: Global Enabling Trade Report 2014.
- Bertelsmann Foundation: Transformation Index 2014 - Cameroon.
- US Department of State: Investment Climate Statement 2014 - Cameroon.
- World Bank: Customs, Brokers, and Informal Sectors 2014.
- Freedom House: Freedom in the World 2014 - Cameroon.
- Freedom House: Freedom of the Press 2014 - Cameroon.
- US Department of State: Human Rights Practices 2013 - Cameroon.
- Transparency International: Global Corruption Barometer 2013.
- Global Witness: Logging in the Shadows, 2013.
- Center for International Forestry Research: Cameroon's hidden harvest 2013.
- AfroBarometer: Governments falter in fight to curb corruption 2013.
- UNDP & University of Yaounde: African Economic Conference 2012.