By Tabora Bojang
A consortium of civil society organisations has petitioned the National Assembly to take urgent steps and perform its oversight duties by bringing order to a “fragmented and dangerous situation”resulting in the death of people and a crumbling health system.
“We are calling on the National Assembly Members to request for an urgent convening of an extraordinary session of the full house through Section 98 subsection 1(a)(ii) of the Constitution and Section 11(3)(c) of the Standing Orders. The country is in crisis, and the National Assembly must take urgent steps and perform its oversight duties by bringing order to a fragmented and dangerous situation, where people are needlessly dying, due to the ineffective, and poor COVID-19 response strategy employed by the Executive. The National Assembly must request that principles and practice of accountability, efficiency, effectiveness and transparency are applied by the Executive as to the management of the COVID-19 response,” the petition stated.
They argued that The Gambia Government is not providing the “necessary and quality leadership and management for the effective and efficient” containment of COVID-19.
They demanded, among others the National Assembly request President Barrow to address the house on the current health disaster in the country, investigate reasons and circumstances of poor quality of leadership from the executive in the fight against COVID 19, demand transparency and accountability for the financial and material resources approved by the National Assembly as well as determine if these resources were efficiently, effectively and judiciously utilized.
The petition also called on the lawmakers to appraise the state of COVID-19 prevalence in The Gambia and determine what steps are required to contain it and to further determine if the current response by the Ministry of Health and other sectors is adequate to contain COVID-19.
“We are concerned by the unresponsiveness of the Executive arm of the State. The lack of leadership to steer a response that inspires confidence is worrying. At a time when the nation should be looking up to the President of the Republic for leadership, we found him grossly wanting as he remains absent and silent. Furthermore, we have noted that huge amount of financial resources provided to the Government from local and international sources as well as generous donations of health related materials from diverse sources.
However, it is evident that the purpose and utility for which these colossal resources were meant, has not been attained, nor benefited their intended targets. Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) that should be available to frontline workers that need them most to save lives, and help medicate the sick, have been denied such supplies. The provision of allowances to frontline workers are not fully paid, while testing services are severely hampered by lack of constant supply of electricity at the National Public Health Laboratory.”
The petitioners alleged that these issues and “concerns are coming against the backdrop of billions of dalasi” that have already been disbursed to the Government.
“In this regard, the foremost national institution with the right authority and powers to demand accountability and transparency from the Executive are Honorable Members, through the august body you belong, and with power of the people you represent. Both the Constitution and the Standing Orders empower a Member to cause a sitting of the Assembly if a quarter of NAMs endorse the request. We therefore wish that you would undertake the necessary actions and as well invoke the necessary provisions for an urgent sitting of the National Assembly.”