By Omar Bah
Citizens’ Alliance presidential candidate has described corruption as the biggest challenge to Gambia’s development prospects.
Addressing journalists last week at a news conference, Dr. Ismaila Ceesay said the country needs leadership and a sense of direction.
“I read on the news that they spent D3 million to buy donkeys and horses for farmers. I have toured the country but I didn’t see that number of donkeys and horses around. I don’t know where they took the donkeys and horses. I don’t know where they are. I cannot find them. The government should come out and tell us where the horses and donkeys are,” Dr. Ceesay said.
In a report expected to be tabled at the National Assembly for consideration, the government highlighted how, through the Ministry of Agriculture, it had spent about D3 million on purchasing donkeys and horses distributed to Gambian farmers last year.
The report added that a total of 195 draught animals were purchased, including 30 horses and 165 donkeys by the Department of Agriculture.
But according to Dr. Ceesay, this clearly demonstrates that the government lacks fiscal discipline.
“The Government should have used the tractors sold during the Janneh Commission instead of donkeys and horses to help farmers. A donkey costs D10, 000 – and if that is so, then D3 million can buy 300 donkeys. This government is the most unserious government The Gambia has ever had. Just recently, Nawec said they lost D15 million in a bank account. That is unprecedented. NAWEC is bankrupt since 2011 and still bankrupt. It cannot pay its debt,” he argued.
He said the “poor financial management” of the Barrow administration is “evident in the government’s missing D15 million. How can you tell us D15 million has gone missing and yet nothing happened? Nobody is suspended. Nobody is sent on administrative leave. Impunity in this country. People do whatever they want and get away with it. That is why today corruption is at its highest.”
However, Nawec has said the incident was the fault of AGIB and not them.
“Corruption is one of the main reasons young people don’t have jobs. The government doesn’t have serious economic policies to make sure that they provide them jobs,” Dr Ceesay continued.
Turning to the December polls, Dr Ceesay urged his fellow politicians to stop talking to the electorate based on sentiments and start discussing issues and policies.
“The caliber of politicians we have at large determines the type of electorate we are having because if we have at least seven politicians going to the electorate talking to them about issues – the electorate will now consider issues as what politics is all about. But if the majority of politicians go to them and talk about sentiments – they will think that politics is about sentiments,” he said.
Dr. Ceesay said the country’s political leaders will have “to define how the electorate will vote in this election but I am hopeful based on what I see. As an objective observer, I have the feeling that the majority of the voters now will not vote based on sentiments”.