The Constitution allows the Government to seek more money from the Parliament if the budget provided for that year cannot meet expenses simply because of the emergence of unforeseen or urgent needs. In other words, if, during the course of the year the Government decides to create a new institution, or the country faces a disaster or some other emergency for which there was no budget, or the approved budget was not sufficient to cater for the new situation, the Constitution allows for Government to go to the National Assembly to ask for more money. This is what is called a supplementary appropriation bill as mentioned in Section 153 of the Constitution.
But the Constitution did not just allow this for free. No. Rather the Constitution said before a supplementary appropriation bill is to be created and approved there must first be a Contingencies Fund (Section 154) which has to be established through an Act of the National Assembly. The purpose of the Contingencies Fund is to allow the President, i.e. the government to spend from it when unforeseen or urgent need arises. It is when that Contingencies Fund runs out that a supplementary appropriation bill could be created. Hence you cannot talk about a supplementary appropriation bill without first having a Contingencies Fund which must have first exhausted to warrant a supplementary appropriation bill.
But until today there has been an Act of the National Assembly to create a Contingencies Fund since this Constitution came into force in 1997. This means all of the supplementary appropriation bills under the former APRC Regime which were approved were in fact unconstitutional.
Therefore, today’s decision by the National Assembly to reject Barrow’s attempt to disregard the Constitution as Yaya Jammeh used to do was significant in that it protected and upheld the rule of law. By upholding the rule of law, it means the National Assembly has performed one of the foremost functions of the parliament which is oversight, i.e. to check the Executive to ensure that they do not abuse power and plunder public resources.
The decision by the National Assembly is also significant in that it has proven that the much-needed system change that citizens yearn for is not yet in place. This is precisely because Barrow continues to appoint, bring back and retain former Yaya Jammeh enablers who are used to such abuse of power and disregard of the rule of law.
This National Assembly must therefore by highly commended for their principled stand against such abuse and disregard of the rule of law. They have indeed indicated that they are only guided by their conscience and the national interest as required of them in dealing with issues in the National Assembly as set out in Section 112(b) of the Constitution.
The National Assembly must still go further to address this clear abuse of the Constitution by the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs. The Minister knows very well the constitutional procedures laid down for the management of public finance. Yet the Minister decided to blatantly disregard the Constitution just to access public funds for wilful use. This is gross misconduct that the National Assembly must not let go.
Therefore, the National Assembly must invoke Section 75 by passing a motion of censure against the Minster for his removal by the President. The decision of the Minister to submit a supplementary appropriation bill when he knows that there is no Contingencies Fund in place, yet he wanted to circumvent this fundamental provision is a blatant abuse of power and the rule of law. Therefore Section 75 provides that if a Minister or the Vice President engages in such misconduct or violates any provision of the Constitution, the National Assembly could pass a motion of censure for his or her removal.
I therefore wish to call on the members of the National Assembly to further discipline the Minster hence all public servants by passing a motion of censure against the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs.
Furthermore, the National Assembly must subject the 2018 budget and all Government expenditures to investigation to determine exactly whether the Barrow Government did not spend any money for which they never got parliamentary authorization. It is not enough for the Minster to tell NAMs that the Government has not engaged in any unauthorised spending. It is for the National Assembly itself to scrutinise Government expenditures to ensure that there were no unbudgeted and unauthorised spending.
We can recall in September when the Minister of Finance went to the National Assembly to report on the state of Government Expenditure. He said in the first quarter, i.e. from January to April 2018 the Government spent D4,025,605,229. This was when he also told NAMs that over 200 million dalasi was spent on travels and soon after imposed a travel ban except for travels to statutory meetings. But since that report we never saw the Government present any more reports to the National Assembly for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th quarters. Why?
No to Financial Mismanagement and Indiscipline. No to Abuse of Power. No to Impunity.
For the Gambia Our Homeland.