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Published on: 01/03/2012

The village of Nkouondja in Cameroon constructed a water system with the help of a Swiss agency. Two years after construction the village water committee planned an extension of the system to be paid from collected household fees. The committee contracted a consultant to supply materials and hire a group of technicians. But things went terribly wrong. They set a meeting to talk.

The village chief kicks off: “We dug the earth to build a new water tank, which has still not been constructed. We bought the materials needed and transported them to the site where they now lie to rot.” And the caretaker adds: “This contractor deceived us. He has embezzled our money. I want an explanation from him before I go mad. I am stopping here for now. We signed an agreement authorising us to manage the money together. But he never respected this. Once he got the money, he disappeared. He has even abandoned his office. Our project is now blocked.”

The treasurer of the water committee is asked to explain what happened with the money for the project. He says:“He is the boss. He spent money without consulting me. He took advantage of my illiteracy and made me sign the receipts. This man is dangerous. It is now time for the contractor to respond and in the turmoil the only thing he can say is: “I can’t stand your accusations any longer.” But the Nkouondja leaders are furious and do not let him talk much more. Another committee member is furious: “Why did you disappear with our money? All the technicians are now gone because you refused to pay them. How do you expect our project to proceed?” The dispute was not solved in this meeting. The Nkouondja water committee brought the contractor to the traditional council where he was forced to repay them.

Andrew Tayong

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