The process for the award of public contracts in Cameroon is expected to be done exclusively online from the beginning of 2023 despite numerous shortcomings facing the system put in place by the government for that purpose.

The country’s Public Contracts Minister Ibrahim Talba Malla announced on 8 September as he chaired a workshop in the capital, Yaounde, to equip technicians managing the platform with better skills to enable them to make it more efficient and easy-to-use.

As part of Cameroon’s digital economy strategy which aims to digitize all major aspects of the country’s governance process, the central African nation launched an online platform in 2018 to manage the process of award and monitoring of government contracts. The platform is a web portal dubbed the ‘Cameroon Online E-procurement System (COLEPS).’ But since its launch, it has continued to face serious challenges despite some positive strides which have however been recorded.

The government says it now plans to make sure that all the required equipment is in place and those to manage them get the best of skills upgrade to meet the 2023 target. Cameroon has been working on this project with a South Korean technical partnership, spearheaded by the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) since 2014.

In the first quarter of 2020, 6210 public contracts were programmed using the COLEPS platform, 16 of which were effectively awarded out of 130 tender notices published, Talba Malla said. “The necessary logistics for better exploitation of this online contracts award system at the level of certain project owners is still lacking. Many of them are also lukewarm about adapting to this new system,” the Cameroon Public Contracts Minister regretted, but said all is being put in place to change the situation.

About the Cameroon Online E-procurement System

The process to dematerialize the process of awarding public contracts in Cameroon was launched in 2018 by a decree of the country’s Prime Minister at the time, Philemon Yang.

The platform, which immediately went into effect, is used to program public contracts online, conduct procedures for the award of such contracts online, and ensure the publication of documents concerning the award and execution of public contracts, without any recourse to paperwork or other manual procedures in the contracts award chain.

The system has also been built to ascertain, through date and time stamping mechanism, the exact date for the online submission of bids by bidders and of their processing by project owners or contracting authorities. It guarantees the confidentiality of bids through a process of cryptography, the authenticity and non-rejection of documents signed on the portal through an electronic signature process, and the integrity of bids submitted through the portal.

COLEPS, experts say, is also designed to circumvent some of the man-made irregularities that have been characteristic of Cameroon’s public contracts award system over the years.

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