Making Contracts Public in Ngaoundéré, Cameroon
Publication Type: Article
Publisher: City & Society, 2014.
International agendas around the promotion of good governance and the fight against corruption have translated into numerous reform processes across the world. As a result, public contracts have become objects of intense scrutiny. In spite of their role in shaping urban infrastructure and their salience in the experience of urban residents, public contracts have received scant ethnographic attention. Drawing on long-term fieldwork in a context marked by evolving ideals of what is civic and what is civil, this article explores how public officials and contractors based in Ngaoundéré, a city in the north of Cameroon, have in the last decade engaged shifting bureaucratic procedures. Cameroon’s public contracting system is the result of ongoing cycles of reform that have supplemented intense legislative production with campaigns, seminars, and workshops aimed at enlarging the publics of public contracts. The article reflects on the intersections of two processes: that of contracting works through a set of distinctive procedures that have been designed to safeguard public interest and that of creating a public for this type of contracts.