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EXPLORATION ON THE ROLE OF E-GOVERNMENT PLATFORMS IN ENHANCING TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN CAMEROON'S PUBLIC SECTOR

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EXPLORATION ON THE ROLE OF E-GOVERNMENT PLATFORMS IN ENHANCING TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN CAMEROON'S PUBLIC SECTOR

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

In present time, Government has realized the importance of the internet of things, and that to survive in the modern they would simplify life and the manner of  accessing public services After the introduction of  e-Commerce and e-Business in the private sector, Okpeinisi (2021) stated that governments across the globe began to study and notice the efficiency of business operations taking place, and at some point, the governments had to adopt and adapt into the new millennium, hence the introduction e-Government in the early 1990s. According to Hekeason (2023) e-government has become a matter of debate in contemporary public administration with mixed feelings among authorities and some key stakeholders. Chatfield & Alhujran, (2018) defined e-Governance as the “rapidly emerging global phenomenon of the use of information and communication technology (ICT) as the new way forward in public administration”. Naz (2019) defined it as “the application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to the government processes to bring Simple, Moral, Accountable, Responsive, and Transparent (SMART) governance”. Basu, (2004) viewed e-governance (e-Government) as; “the use of information technology to free movement of information to overcome the physical bounds of traditional paper and physical based systems’ to ‘the use of technology to enhance the access to and delivery of government services to benefit citizens, business partners and employees”. According to Sithole & Vander Waldt (2019), E-governance, which also means electronic governance generally, refers to the use of information and communication technology (ICT) in order to provide different government services 

Contextually, Cameroon has implemented several digital platforms as e-government initiatives and online services to improve citizen access to government services and enhance administrative efficiency. These include the tax administration, the General Delegation for National Security, and the Ministry of Public Service and Administrative Reform (MINFOPRA) which Zainab (2022)  argued that in the realm of tax administration, the adoption of digital technologies such as digitized statistical and tax declarations, as well as the introduction of direct tax payments via mobile money, has yielded significant benefits. These advancements have enabled citizens to save time and mitigate engagement in informal transactions, thus reducing avenues for corruption. Furthermore, the tax administration's commitment to digitizing street addresses since October 2021 has facilitated taxpayer location, enhancing the efficiency of tax collection procedures and contributing to revenue optimization and tax base expansion.

Furthermore, The General Delegation for National Security (DGSN), responsible for police affairs, embarked on digital transformation initiatives, notably the digitization of passport production processes since July 1, 2021. This initiative according to World Bank (2020) report has streamlined document filing and fee payments for passport issuance, leading to expedited file processing and a drastic reduction in waiting times. Consequently, the turnaround time for obtaining passports has been reduced to less than 48 hours, significantly enhancing service delivery efficiency. The digitalization of policing by the police represents a pertinent example of enhancing public services. The deployment of 3,500 cameras across the national territory has bolstered citizen confidence in state security measures, as the video surveillance system has intercepted numerous incidents, thereby contributing to crime prevention and public safety. Regarding the Ministry of Civil Service and Administrative Reform, digitalization efforts have focused on enhancing user interaction and streamlining administrative processes. The introduction of the "You and Us" platform has facilitated user engagement, while digitalization initiatives in administrative note management, correspondence handling, and recruitment procedures for public service positions have further optimized administrative efficiency and service delivery. According to Minette Libom Li Likeng, (2020), the government launched the "National Agency for Information and Communication Technologies" (ANTIC) to oversee the digitization of public services and promote ICT infrastructure development (Minette Libom Li Likeng, 2020) which is aimed at streamline administrative procedures and reduce bureaucratic hurdles for businesses and citizens.

Significantly, the optimistic school has argued that the prospects of adopting a digital government lies  in  its  tenet  of  promoting  good  governance,  that  is  its  ability  to  enhance accountability, transparency, inclusiveness and democratic participation, among others, (Haldenwang, 2023).  However, the critical approach to e-government alleges that embracing e-government would be detrimental to the existing state of public service delivery, (Wong and Welch, 2020). They perceive that adopting e-government would bring unwanted change  (hence public authorities try to fight the  change), they also argue that due to the digital divide challenge, e-government  can lead  to uneven  distribution  of its  perceived  goodies. Moussa, and Schware,  (1992) argue  that even  after  adopting  e-government  there would  still  be need  to uphold  the old  manual mode  of  service  delivery  due  to the  latter’s  inability  to  stand alone.  It has to compliment the old ‘manual’ structure systems and processes hence regarded to be costly.

Concurrently, traditional ways of information gathering, storage, processing and dissemination which were highly laborious have been believed to be lagging behind with the  demands of  the 21st century hence the call to  embrace digital  government. Digital transformation plays a crucial role in enhancing the efficiency of state administration in developing countries by optimizing processes, expanding service reach, and fostering citizen engagement. By leveraging digital technologies effectively, governments can overcome administrative challenges, improve service delivery, and ultimately contribute to the socio-economic development and well-being of their citizens (World Bank, 2016).

1.2 Statement of problem

The need for transparency and accountability in public  sector  management  has  become  a  global challenge  especially in  the 21st  century where  the major  objective of  the Millennium  Development Goals  (MDGs)  is  to  achieve  good  governance  through  a  mutually  shared  state-citizen  interaction. There is need  to  effectively  monitor  the  administrative  machinery  of  the  government. According to Udobanija (2021), digital technologies offer opportunities to streamline bureaucratic processes, minimize paperwork, and reduce administrative overheads, ultimately leading to cost savings and resource optimization. By digitizing administrative tasks such as citizen registration, tax filing, and procurement processes, governments can significantly improve operational efficiency and service delivery (UN E-Government Survey, 2020).  In a report by UN DESA, (2018) digital transformation enables governments to overcome geographical barriers and reach remote and underserved populations more effectively. By offering online services and digital platforms, governments can provide access to essential services such as healthcare, education, and financial assistance to citizens in rural areas who may have limited physical access to government offices. This not only enhances the inclusivity of public services but also contributes to reducing disparities in access to government services between urban and rural population. 

While numerous studies have explored the role of e-government in enhancing governance practices globally, there remains a notable gap in understanding its specific impact within the context of Cameroon's public sector. According to Ntang and Crompton (2023), Cameroon has made strides in digitizing government services through the implementation of various e-government initiatives. However, there is limited empirical evidence on the extent to which these platforms contribute to transparency and accountability in the country's public sector. Additionally, the effectiveness of e-government platforms may be influenced by factors unique to Cameroon's socio-political landscape, such as institutional capacity, technological infrastructure, and citizen engagement. Furthermore, existing literature suggests that the success of e-government initiatives in promoting transparency and accountability hinges on several critical factors, including data security, access to information, and citizen participation (Kumah & Amankwah-Amoah, 2020). Therefore, a comprehensive exploration of the role of e-government platforms in enhancing transparency and accountability in Cameroon's public sector is warranted to inform evidence-based policy decisions and enhance governance practices.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The broad objectives of this study is on of the role of e-government platforms in enhancing transparency and accountability in Cameroon's public sector. Specifically, the study seeks to:

To examine the extent to which e-government platforms have been implemented across various government agencies and departments in Cameroon.

To analyze the impact of e-government platforms on enhancing transparency and accountability within Cameroon's public sector.

To identify strategies for optimizing the effectiveness of e-government platforms in enhancing transparency and accountability in Cameroon's public sector.

1.4 Research Question

i. What is the extent to which e-government platforms have been implemented across various government agencies and departments in Cameroon?

ii. What is the impact of e-government platforms on enhancing transparency and accountability within Cameroon's public sector?

What are strategies for optimizing the effectiveness of e-government platforms in enhancing transparency and accountability in Cameroon's public sector.

1.5 Research Hypotheses

Ho: There is no significant impact of e-government platforms on enhancing transparency and accountability within Cameroon's public sector.

Ha: There is a significant impact of e-government platforms on enhancing transparency and accountability within Cameroon's public sector.

1.6 Significance of the Study

From a practical perspective, the findings of this study have significant implications for policymakers, government officials, and other stakeholders involved in the design and implementation of e-government initiatives in Cameroon. By identifying the challenges, opportunities, and best practices associated with e-government platforms, this research can inform evidence-based decision-making and strategic planning processes within government agencies. Moreover, the recommendations generated from this study can help policymakers and practitioners optimize the design, functionality, and usability of e-government platforms to better serve the needs of citizens and enhance transparency and accountability in the public sector. Ultimately, the practical insights derived from this study have the potential to contribute to more effective governance practices and foster greater trust and confidence in government institutions among citizens in Cameroon.

The theoretical significance of this study lies in its contribution to the growing body of literature on e-government and governance practices, particularly within the context of developing countries such as Cameroon. By examining the role of e-government platforms in enhancing transparency and accountability, this research expands our theoretical understanding of how technology can be leveraged to improve public sector governance. The findings of this study will provide valuable insights into the factors that influence the effectiveness of e-government initiatives, including the importance of technological infrastructure, institutional capacity, and citizen engagement. Moreover, by addressing the gap in empirical research on e-government in Cameroon, this study contributes to broader theoretical debates on the relationship between technology adoption and governance outcomes, thus informing future scholarship and policymaking efforts in the field.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The study borders on the role of e-government platforms in enhancing transparency and accountability in Cameroon's public sector. In content, the study will examine the extent to which e-government platforms have been implemented across various government agencies and departments in Cameroon, analyze the impact of e-government platforms on enhancing transparency and accountability within Cameroon's public sector and identify strategies for optimizing the effectiveness of e-government platforms in enhancing transparency and accountability in Cameroon's public sector. Geographically, the study will cover Ministry of Public Service and Administrative Reform  (MINFOPRA) in Yaoundé .

Limitations of the Study

While the study aims to provide a comprehensive analysis, certain limitations may arise, such as constraints related to data availability, access to certain regions and limited resources. Firstly, limited availability of data or access to official government records may constrain the depth and breadth of the analysis. Due to the case study approach focusing on specific Ministry of Public Service and Administrative Reform (MINFOPRA) in Yaoundé. the findings may lack generalizability to other regions or countries. Therefore, caution will be exercised in extrapolating the results beyond the study context. More so, the study's sample selection process may introduce bias, as certain communities or demographic groups may be overrepresented or underrepresented. This could affect the validity and representativeness of the findings. Limited time and resources may restrict the scope of the study, impacting the depth of data collected and the comprehensiveness of the analysis. This could result in overlooking certain aspects or dynamics relevant to the research questions. Despite these limitations, the researcher will acknowledge and address these challenges transparently to enhance the credibility and rigor of the study.

1.9 Definition of terms

E-Governance: also known as electronic governance, is the utilization of Information Communication Technology (ICT) inside the government to facilitate and manage various governmental tasks, including the delivery of public services.

Digital transformation: Digital transformation in the context of state administration in Cameroon refers to the systematic integration and utilization of digital technologies, processes, and strategies within government agencies and institutions to enhance the efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency of administrative operations and service delivery. 

Public Service Delivery: Public service delivery refers to the provision of essential services, such as healthcare, education, infrastructure, and social welfare, by government agencies and institutions to citizens and communities. It encompasses the planning, implementation, and monitoring of programs and initiatives aimed at meeting the needs and demands of the public in an efficient, effective, and equitable manner.

Accountability: Public sector entities are accountable for fulfilling their duties and mandates effectively and efficiently. This includes delivering public services, implementing policies, and managing resources in accordance with legal frameworks and ethical standards.


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