Local government structures play a crucial role in the development of their respective areas. In Cameroon, local government is exercised by some 374 councils; consisting of 360 councils and 14 city councils with special status. Apart from the City Councils that are headed by Government Delegates appointed by a Presidential Decree, local councils are headed by elected mayors. The current council executives (Mayors) were elected into office on September 30, 2013 and by dint of the Electoral Code, the mandate of municipal councils has a five-year life span. Thus, 2018 will mark another turning point in the lives of some councils in the country.
It is therefore against this back drop that the stakes for the 2018 budget are high as the council executives have the last opportunity to win or lose the confidence of their electorates. It is therefore time for feet-dragging mayors to right the wrongs of the last four years by making maximum use of the 2018 budget for the development of their municipalities. Priority should therefore be placed on providing utilities (water, electricity, and healthcare), basic infrastructure like roads, markets, hygiene and sanitation amongst others as enshrined in the texts that defines their competences. According to Law No. 2009/011 of 10 July 2009 relating to the financial regime of regional and local authorities, the councils must at least allocate 40 per cent of its budget for investment. This provision, however, has hardly been totally respected by some councils which allocate huge portions of their budget on operating expenditure thereby leaving the population to wallow in underdevelopment.
Drawing up the budget is one thing and realising it is another. The councils have the arduous task of mobilising resources in order to meet up with the planned expenditure. Local councils are empowered to levy taxes and charges including direct council taxes, cattle tax and licences and building permits. They also get 70 per cent of additional council tax collected by the taxation department. Local councils also benefit from decentralisation grants from the government through the Special Council Fund for Mutual Assistance (FIECOM). In 2017, the Prime Minister fixed the amount for the National Decentralisation fund at FCFA 10 billion. Councils that intend to succeed in realising their budget and impacting on the communities, will have to optimise revenue collection and not rely on State subvention.