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City of Banjul
Friday, September 25, 2020

Corruption cannot be fought by lip service alone

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The recent concerns raised by the Auditor General in a forum discussing the US government report on Gambia’s fiscal transparency (that not much is being done by government, the National Assembly and or the police on recommendations submitted by his office on the management of public funds) is an indictment on our conscience.

 

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Indeed, the inaction and lethargy by successive governments towards addressing queries raised by audit reports is pathetic and may be itself mired in corruption. Public officers no longer worry about audit reports or queries knowing full well it will only remain a recommendation in the books year in and year out. In a society where people care about accountability even a management letter alone should be shameful and worrying. But in some government institutions, auditors sometimes even state in no uncertain terms, suspicions of fraud. Yet noting comes out of it.

 

How many times have we come across audit reports which raised suspected fraud and recommending police involvement?  Why hasn’t anything been done about this as alluded to by the Auditor General? And where is our National Assembly in all these matters? At least if the government fails to act because of politics or contamination with the same disease, the National Assembly should serve as our only hope. The lack of action in these suspected cases makes a mockery of the entire audit exercise itself and the monies spent on it (which we hope are audited too).

 

Our findings have discovered that there are volumes of reports by auditors asking government to recover public funds from officials, organisations and or entities. In one such case, a list of supposed unretired imprest running into tens of millions of dalasis was mentioned in the assembly who called for it to be recovered from a list of officials.  But nothing has been heard of it since then.

 

In our view, the sooner our NAMs and government realise that corruption is never fought by lip service alone the better. Affirmative action is needed and sometimes accompanied by drastic measures if we are serious about fighting corruption.

 

Indeed, as alluded to by the American ambassador on the same forum, public officials must be held accountable for the monies we entrust them with, and if they are found wanting they must face sanctions. This is what is called the rule of law and transparency.

 

In our view, this government still has a great opportunity to change the low opinion people have in terms of its commitment to fight corruption. It must fast track the establishment of the much talked about anti-corruption commission and check the awarding of government contracts and procurement procedures.  The government must encourage whistle blowers and government agencies and investigate corruption allegations when they are raised especially in the media.  

 

The citizens too must change their attitude towards corruption. A civil servant in your neighbourhood who suddenly built a mansion and bought luxurious cars may not be all that ‘a lucky man’. He could be stealing your tax money entrusted to his care.  Corruption kills and just like a pandemic, it is everyone’s business to stop it.

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