To understand and appreciate accountability, one first needs to look at the Almighty God and the Scriptures. In Christianity and Islam, we know that God has created Heaven and Hell. These are the ultimate accountability institutions of the universe that ensure that believers conduct themselves on the right path during their lifetime. They are places one has to earn in the Hereafter but only by one’s conduct in this life. Without this carrot and stick mechanism, it is clear that many believers could misbehave. Accountability is about taking responsibility for one’s decisions and actions.
In Buddhism there is the concept of Karma, that an individual’s intent and actions influence one’s future. There is also the idea of the Ten Commandments in Christianity that sets the values and standards of personal conduct. These concepts as well as many parts of the Sharia highlight that accountability is indeed the heart of religion. Without accountability sinfulness and evil will prevail on earth!
In terms of human rights, the concept of accountability also stands out as the basis of respect and protection. In human rights, ordinary citizens are right holders while the State and its officers are primary duty bearers. The State has a duty to promote and protect rights. For example where there is a violation, the State is expected to ensure redress through the courts for the delivery of justice. Violators are sent to prison or fined and victims are compensated and consoled. Without accountability, abuse and impunity prevail!
In development, it is clear that only accountability can tell us whether we are making progress or failure. The concept and practice of policy reviews, development evaluation, project monitoring or needs assessments among others all point to the value and practice of accountability. It is these exercises that tell whether progress is being made or we are stagnating, deviating or just making sheer failure. Hence there cannot be durable development without accountability. Without accountability, poverty and deprivation prevail!
In governance, the concept and practice of accountability is founded on, first and foremost election. Election is an exercise that gives opportunity to citizens to pass judgment on the incumbent as to whether he or she has served them well or not over the past five years. If citizens are not satisfied with the incumbent, then they can look to the opposition to identify who they think can better serve them based on the leadership and manifesto of the candidates and their parties. Without accountability, dictatorship and self-perpetuation in power prevail!
In light of the foregoing, one can therefore conclude that the reason Governments as public institutions and public officers fail to provide adequate, efficient and quality goods and services is purely because of the lack or inadequate accountability. In any society or organization or institution, so long as accountability standards, processes and institutions are weak or absent then such an entity will fail to fulfill its obligation.
The lack of, or a weak culture of accountability is the reason why the Gambia is in its current poor state. Since independence, Gambian people have not been effective in ensuring accountability at all levels. For most part, citizens have been unable to hold their leaders to account but rather to praise them or remain indifferent or claim that ‘God’s Time’ will come. On the other hand also, state institutions were unable to hold each other to account as required by law. In the final analysis what we have are a bunch of weak state institutions led and managed by inefficient men and women.
It is this lack of accountability culture that we have NAWEC, which started as GUC and then MSG continue to not only fail in supplying water and electricity but has also failed to ensure that these public goods are available to most Gambians. It is the same lack of accountability we see in each and every sector of the Government – from agriculture to sports. In each department, services or sector of our Government and society we only see stagnancy and failure unabated.
At the end of the day, the Gambia Government and its ministries, departments and agencies and their leaders and managers know that after all, they will face no accountability if they fail. They know that Gambians will not rise up to protest or cry foul or go to court. Even if we do, they know that such cries and protests will not be widespread and last long enough. For that matter, since Jawara we have seen a consistent failure of the Government in providing the necessary goods and services to the people. Yet the people continue to be law abiding and paying huge taxes every day!
Gambians continue to face bad roads, poor utility supply, poor public transportation, poor performance and poor leadership all over the place. Yet every time the Government would come up with some cock and bull stories because they know Gambians will buy such stories without critical thinking. Therefore unless Gambians stand up to hold their Government and leaders and managers to account, there is no doubt that this country will hit another 50 years only to continue to wallow in poverty and wretchedness.
Just like God did in Islam or Christianity, we must also understand that unless we set accountability standards and sanctions on our leaders and Government, there will be no progress in this country. God has created Heaven and Hell so that all believers are compelled to do good because they know bad deeds take one to Hell while good deeds offer the Heaven. As citizens we also have to create heaven and hell on earth for our Government and leaders as well otherwise NAWEC or GAMTEl or Central Bank or Gambia Police Force or the Ministry of Agriculture and above all the President will never do the right thing.
By now Gambians must learn from our history and experience in these past fifty years under the PPP and the APRC regimes. These two governments messed up the Gambia simply because they were not held to account as adequately as possible. We allowed them to bombard us with cock and bull stories while they plundered public resources, retarded national progress and tormented our lives with impunity. This is why after 50 years, the Gambia remains a highly indebted poor country without direction or vision.
For how long shall we allow this?
God Bless The Gambia