By Madi Jobarteh
In the first place one has to applaud the Minister of Finance Amadou Sanneh for holding a press conference to tell Gambians the state of our public funds. I just hope that this practice would continue. The Barrow Administration must realize that effective communication is an indispensable tool that all modern democratic states utilize in order to control the narrative and dominate the space for good. Communicating with citizens on a consistent, truthful and timely manner serves to generate public confidence in the leadership, ensure stability and promote transparency and accountability.
That the debt of the country is standing at 48.3 billion dalasi should not be a surprise to any Gambian. Rather this is a mere validation of the misrule of Yaya Jammeh and the APRC Regime, which had consistently and constantly sought to loot and kill the Gambian Nation since 1994. Through the abuse of our laws, institutions and naked violence, APRC as a party and its National Assembly members ensured the disempowerment of Gambians in favour of one man whose only objective was to defraud and harm our people.
By now all Gambians must confirm that Yaya Jammeh has never had any good intentions for the Gambia. The practice of misuse of public funds has been a longstanding culture of his regime. One would recall that every year, after the National Assembly approved the national budget, yet his Vice President Isatou Njie Saidy would still go to the parliament in the last quarter of the year to seek a supplementary budget of hundreds of millions of dalasi on baseless arguments.
In fact in November 2014, Isatou Njie Saidy went to the Assembly only 40 days to the end of the year to request for additional one billion, one hundred and thirty four million, six hundred and ninety five thousand, nine hundred and forty eight dalasi (D1, 134, 695, 948). Out of this sum, D459, 473, 513 was allocated to the Office of the President alone. In that amount, Yaya Jammeh spent 86 million dalasi on national celebrations, 112 million dalasi went to the purchase of vehicles and 95 million dalasi went to hotel accommodation and 135 million dalasi on the president’s travels, while 30 million dalasi was spent on fuel. But the bitter truth also is that Yaya Jammeh used Gambians to spend this money illegally.
For example, we can recall in 2009 when Yaya Jammeh distributed one million dalasi to each of the 30 members of the Under 17 football team and their coaches.
This is not to mention the three million dalasi he gave to Kafuta community for their mosque, or the hundreds of Gambians he shipped to Mecca and Rome every year. He had also distributed huge sums of monies to various communities, groups and individuals in and outside of the Gambia, while distributed thousands of bags of rice and sugar and meat. What about the scores of entertainers and prostitutes he constantly imported from around the world at the expense of the Gambian citizen. Hence what this press conference has shown is to validate the illegal economic crimes of Yaya Jammeh, aided and abetted by the APRC and as well as many other Gambians who thought the man was just kind. The issue therefore is what next?
In light of that, I think Minister Sanneh must not only tell us about the misuse of public resources by Yaya Jammeh. But at the end of his ongoing investigations, he must go further to tell us what his government now intends to do about this. He has given us an idea about how some of the money was obtained such as the withdrawals made by one Sanna Jarju and Nuha Williams. But what preliminary actions is he going to take now to address urgent issues emerging from this crime?
For example, who are Sanna Jarju and Nuha Williams? Without pre-empting the investigations, I am of the strong view that these two men need to be invited urgently by the police to give information on the circumstances of these withdrawals. But also, the Governor of Central Bank and his relevant officials must be suspended and asked to assist in the investigations. Similarly, what do the top officials of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs know about these economic crimes? They need to also assist in the investigations. In the same vein, the MD of Gamtel and SSHFC and those in charge of Carnegie Minerals Project need to be investigated in terms of their knowledge and participation in this looting of national resources.
We expect prompt and thorough decisions and actions from the government because the very life of the country is at stake here. Since taking office one month ago, we expect the new administration to move with strategy and speed to protect vital national interests. For that reason, Isatou Njie Saidy and the former Minister of Finance must be called in by the police to shed light on those supplementary budget requests she was making. Here is a list of some of her requests:
1. Supplementary Budget 2010 – 100 million dalasi
2. Supplementary Budget 2011 – 220 million dalasi
3. Supplementary Budget 2012 – 471 million dalasi
4. Supplementary Budget 2013 – 300 million dalasi
5. Supplementary Budget 2014 – 1.134 billion dalasi
Finally, my advice remains that the Barrow Administration constantly communicates with citizens so as to provide the necessary assurance, direction and promote popular participation in national affairs. Such sharing of information will serve to legitimize the decisions and actions of the government as it opens them to public scrutiny, which is good for them. Without communication, the space would be left for rumours and speculation, some of which would be unfair and unnecessary, but this would be because the government is not just communicating at the right time and in full. Thus to avoid this, it is necessary that we hear from the State, always.
God Bless The Gambia.