By Omar Bah
The highly anticipated anti-corruption commission bill will be retabled at the National Assembly in the coming weeks.
In December 2019, lawmakers considered and passed the anti-corruption bill.
However, it was referred to the Assembly’s Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) for further scrutiny and consultation. Gambians especially civil society organisations have raised concerns over its delay at the National Assembly.
The member for Wuli West, who doubles as vice chairperson of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC), Sidia Jatta, has confirmed to The Standard that his committee has already finished reviewing the draft and that it will be retabled before lawmakers in about two weeks.
“We have sent a few questions to the Minister of Justice demanding clarifications on certain issues, but we are looking forward to tabling it in the next parliamentary session,” Jatta said.
The World Bank considers corruption a major challenge to its goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030.
According to the newly released 2020 Corruption Performance Index (CPI) report, The Gambia is ranked the 102nd least corrupt nation out of 180 countries. This is a drop from the 96th position in 2019.
The report which was released on 28 January, 2021, also presents a largely gloomy picture for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Out of the 49 African countries surveyed, only eight scored more than 43 out of 100 on the index. With the Gambia consistently scoring 37 points over the past three years, the country continues to be ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world.
Marr Nyang, the executive director of Gambia Participates, a group leading the fight against corruption in The Gambia, said: “The public have been gravely concerned about the deterioration of the public service, poor economy and standard of living due to systemic corruption. The members of parliament now have the rare opportunity to legislate strong and sound anti-corruption laws that will criminalise corruption and as well ensure efficiency and efficacy in our public service. I anticipate that this Parliament will do well by legislating this bill to set the base for a corrupt-free Gambia.”
A social and political commentator, Pa Samba Jaw, said: “I must thank the Executive and the National Assembly for finally bringing to life the Anti-Corruption Bill.
“It is an indisputable fact that corruption continues to be a scourge in the lives of our people, and a serious impediment to our country’s development. As such, the importance of an Anti-Corruption Commission cannot be overemphasized. We must be resolute in ensuring that any such commission must be fully independent, and maintain all the powers to effectively carryout its work without hindrance or interference from the powers that be. Failure to ensure its independence would render this potential Commission a toothless bulldog.”
He advised the government and the National Assembly to ensure that the anti-corruption bill “is ironclad and without any ambiguities, because the future of the country depends on it.”
“Additionally, they must not write this legislation from the lenses of what will protect them and their counterparts in high offices, rather, they must write a bill that is fit for purpose and one that will protect the future and stability of our dear country,” he added.
To further ensure the effectiveness of the Commission, Jaw added: “I hope that people with impeccable character and people who are incorruptible will constitute such a Commission. While the Commission will undoubtedly serve as an important first step to curbing corruption, it must be accompanied by a change of attitude from and all and sundry, and the unquestionable political will to prosecute all corrupt officials.”