By Omar Bah
President Adama Barrow has said audit findings are ‘mere’ opinions that the government cannot act upon without making its own investigations.
Speaking in a much-watched Star TV interview aired Friday night with veteran broadcaster Malik Jones, President Barrow said audit reports are prepared by individuals who could be biased or make mistakes.
“Audit reports are mere opinions and you cannot conclude based on opinions because the auditors can make mistakes or be biased. So, when these audit reports are released, we have to do our internal investigations just like we are doing with the Ministry of Health [Global Fund] case. The police are investigating the person involved to establish whether there is a case for us to build on to be able to go to court,” he said.
He said the government followed the same rules of procedure in the case of PS Dr Bamba Banja.
“Banja was among the permanent secretaries I admired a lot because of his ability but despite that when we realised there was a case for him to answer we took him to court and eventually he was sentenced. So, we are also investigating the audit findings to see whether we will be able to build up a case against individuals who will be held accountable,” he said.
He said the government will not try anybody based on opinions. “That will not happen. Due process has to be followed. My position is that if anyone working in my government is found wanting of corruption, he or she will be taken to court. There is no compromise on that,” he added.
Commenting on his achievements, President Barrow said the 80 percent salary increment, press freedom, economic growth, improvements in tax collection and construction of roads have been his government’s major accomplishments.
“When it comes to infrastructure, the governments of Sir Dawda Jawara and Yahya Jammeh combined constructed 800 kilometres of roads in over 50 years but I have in six years constructed over 700 kilometres. In terms of ratio, they were constructing 15 kilometres per year while I am constructing 150 kilometres per year. So, the difference is huge. If you come to electricity, according to the World Bank, when I came the electricity was going off 10 to 17 times every day but we brought it down to 2 to 3 times a day,” he said.
He said the government has engaged the India government to waive 20 percent taxes on rice exports for Gambian businesses and they hope that would help stabilise the price.
“But I want to appeal to the business community to stop over-pricing their goods especially during the month of Ramadan,” he said.
Local Government Commission
He said the commission of inquiry into local councils was triggered by claims by Kanifing mayor Talib Bensouda of corruption at his council and his decision to suspend some staff without any authority to do so.
“Both the Ministry of Local Government and the Local Government Service Commission advised him to rescind the decision but he refused and when he realised that the government was going to use force to reinstate them, he went to court to block it. That was why we constituted the ministerial commission which he again blocked through a court order. This is why we decided to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the matter,” he said.
Security Sector Reform
President Barrow said the security sector reform is progressing smoothly and there have been a number of changes in the manner the country’s security forces operate, adding that as part of new developments, the government is working on having a military academy that will provide proper training for the military.