Currently, the Members of the National Assembly are scrutinizing the 2018 budget. The budget was tabled before them by the Minister of Finance on the 27th of November, 2017 and they are supposed to approve it by 9th December, 2017. It is heartening that for the first time in more than two decades, the members of parliament are raising pertinent questions and making worthwhile observations about some budget lines. This is encouraging.
However, Mr President, there are two very important issues which I think need to be considered. The duration within which the Members of National Assembly should scrutinize and approve the budget is just fourteen days. For this year for example, the time is just between the 27th November and the 9th December. This duration is hardly adequate for the proper scrutiny of a budget.
Secondly, the public has no access to the budget. The citizenry will only know the full details of this important document after the NAMs give it their approval. Considering that this is the second most important document of the country; and considering that whatever a government does is – should be – on behalf of/and for the welfare of the citizenry, it will be prudent to get them involved in it from the onset.
The Constitution of the Republic of the Gambia states clearly that sovereignty resides in the hands of the people. It is the people of the Gambia who, by exercising their franchise who elect a government and give them a mandate to run their affairs. Thus, whatever the government does should be for the benefit of the people. Besides, the government is always answerable to the people who elected them. To talk about or do something for the welfare of those people therefore, they need to be consulted and made part of the decision making.
Perhaps this year is gone, but the Constitutional Reform your government promised us should include a review of this part of the law. Let it be made that the people will have timely and accurate information about the budget well before its passing. In this way, people will participate in the formulation of the budget and will be able to take ownership of it. That is how we will progress.
Have a good day Mr President.