The first whistle had not yet sounded on the Cameroonian lawns that the question was already raised, amplified by the dissemination on social networks of images of abandoned fields in Gabon while they had hosted the games of the CAN 2017. It also agitated several private companies that were active around the Cameroonian authorities, hoping to win contracts. This is particularly the case of the French legal consultancy GB2A, whose officials have landed in Yaounde, this January 20.
They intend to meet with the Cameroonian sports authorities to offer their services to draft a tripartite agreement between the professional football league, the Ministry of Sports and the Cameroon Football Federation (Fecafoot), now headed by Samuel Eto’o. Their idea? To set up a mixed economy company that would be entrusted with the maintenance and management of all the stadiums and training grounds that will be used for the CAN.
Avoiding a Gabonese-style scenario
Except that the Cameroonian authorities have also started to work on the subject. It has been discussed several times at the top of the state, Paul Biya having mandated Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, secretary-general of the presidency, and head of the task force responsible for monitoring the construction sites of the CAN infrastructure. He asked him to propose solutions to avoid a Gabonese-style scenario.
According to our information, the technical officials assigned to this task by Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh have submitted their copy since mid-October. The main proposal of this text, which is now on the desk of the head of state, is the creation of a new public entity that will be entrusted with the maintenance and profitability of existing infrastructure, as well as the development of new sports venues in the regions that have not benefited from the construction of the CAN. This structure should have regional branches, and it will be responsible for establishing operating partnerships with private companies.
Nearly 500 billion CFA francs (US$1 billion) have been invested by Cameroon in the construction and renovation of all sports infrastructures, according to an executive of the Ministry of Sports. Most of them were made available to the Confederation of African Football (CAF) for the CAN. These are the two stadiums built in Bafoussam and Limbe, those of Douala-Bepanda, Ahmadou Ahidjo and Garoua completely renovated, the two sports complexes of Douala and Yaounde, still awaiting completion, and about thirty training grounds built or rehabilitated throughout the country.
The maintenance of each of the stadiums built by Cameroon costs 1 to 1.5 million euros per year. For the time being, only those that have been fully completed are paid for by the Cameroonian authorities. The Yaounde-Olembe complex, whose second phase of construction should resume at the end of the tournament, remains under the responsibility of the builders until the site is fully completed. It is the same for the Japoma complex, where the Turkish group Yenigün is still active on the site.
The CAN task force brought together about fifteen executives from different ministries around the secretary-general of the presidency and his collaborators. It had been set up just before the Women’s CAN, organized by Cameroon in 2016, with the aim of overcoming the slowness observed in the construction of sports infrastructure.
Since then, it has been responsible for ensuring that the various stadiums are in good condition and for monitoring the construction sites. And although its omnipresence in the negotiation of contracts with service providers has led to an avalanche of criticism and suspicions of embezzlement, the members of the task force are convinced that they have fulfilled their mission. Will Ngoh Ngoh and his collaborators ever have to justify themselves?
Only Paul Biya, who hinted at the end of December that the anti-corruption campaign would resume, has the answer. It is also he who will ultimately decide what form the entity in charge of stadium maintenance will take when the competition ends on 6 February.
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