By Omar Bah
Two weeks after the publication of the National Audit Office summarised audit report on government’s 2017 financial statements, which revealed that government made withdrawals amounting to D669 million without approval of the Account General from the so-called special security accounts, the Auditor General has broken his silence on the matter.
The publication generated controversial reactions from Gambians which forced the government to clarify that only D35 million out of the D669 million was expended by the current government. But responding to a Standard question yesterday at the Sir Dawda Conference centre where his office is hosting a four days international forum of auditors, Auditor General, Karamba Touray, said: “This whole controversy is like looking for a wood in a forest. You see, people have missed the issue because the question here is that the auditors have never reported on the account because we never knew it existed. There was a conspiracy to keep this account – remember there are a number of accounts revealed by the Janneh Commission which have never been audited because we are not magicians. We sent requests for government accounts and only the accounts that are given to us are audited. We have never heard this account until the coming in of the current regime and when they brought it, we looked at it and said in fact this has been opened since 2012.”
He said his office had recommended that the account be closed.
“They closed it and then reopened it. That was the issue. So the money is not about who spends what; it is about doing this outside of the system because it doesn’t form part of the public accounts and they needed to go through the treasury system because there was no need to open the account in the first place. It was used for fraudulent activities. That is why it was opened,” he said.
Names of current and former government officials were reported to have withdrawn from the account.
But Mr Touray added: “The people who benefitted from the payments are not the problem but the people who opened the account. They could have paid me myself from that account and I would not know. So that is the issue.”
AG Touray said the NAO is confident that the current crop of NAMs and the finance and public accounts committee will make a difference in terms of ensuring that its recommendations are implemented.