By Omar Bah
The first finance minister of President Adama Barrow, Amadou Sanneh, has alleged the much-appreciated cost-saving vehicle policy could not be implemented because State House blocked it at the implementation stage.
The vehicle policy was designed to save the government from expended monies on buying vehicles for civil servants but instead give loans to them to buy their own vehicles, saving government from buying fuel and spending on maintenance.
The government expended around D239, 748, 944 million on vehicle maintenance alone in 2017. As of December 2019, as per the vehicle control records, the government has a total number of 925 vehicles of which 12% are project vehicles while 88% comprises VIP and regular/pool users.
According to former minister Sanneh, a senior member of the opposition United Democratic Party, the vehicle policy is his brainchild designed to save the government D300M but it was blocked by the State House after being passed by the National Assembly. He said the policy was welcomed by Gambians and the international donor community.
“The idea was instead of government buying vehicles for civil servants we provide them loans to buy their own cars to facilitate transportation and that was put in the Civil Service Loan Scheme but when we were moving to the next stage to seize the vehicles, it was State House that advised the permanent secretaries not to surrender the vehicles and abandon the policy and thereby stopping a policy that would have saved a lot of money for the government.
“But now the government still foots the bills – if you look at maintenance, fuel and all these costs are rising especially in this inflation. The vehicle policy was one of the measures to cut our cost according to our size,” he said.
Sanneh said similarly the foreign embassies were also going to be trimmed and downsized.
“We don’t need embassies in all these countries like you have from Sierra Leone, Bissau, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Spain and Brussels. All these are at a very high cost and these were going to be reduced so that the bills would be reasonable. But they recalled the majority of these ambassadors now under this current budget when the movement is also costing millions of dalasis. Why the need for that? Just because you want to maybe satisfy your supporters by putting them in a position at the detriment of the country because all those people would not be able to perform something they have not learned,” he argued.
He said the vehicle policy was in the budget and it was discussed and approved by the National Assembly. “The next thing was just to implement it so when they (Assembly) heard of the blockages, they called me and I told them it was not me and that I was implementing it but the State House blocked it so if the parliament was bold enough and strong enough, they would have taken the State House to task because they are the approving authority for the government’s expenditure. So, it means that you approve a cut in expenditure but the executive is saying no, we will spend it even though you have disallowed it. That alone is against the laws of the Financial Act, so it is just like I will do whatever I like,” he noted.
He said the current administration has succeeded in corrupting the system that is supposed to protect every Gambian.
“If you don’t have a system people do what they like and if that continues this country will never move forward. So, I blame the State House for this failure and we are facing the consequences now because we are not expecting EU and AfDB budget support for the coming budget,” he added.
Sanneh said he however hopes the president would fulfil his promise to the Banjul Muslim elders when they visited him during the last Koriteh that his government was still committed to implementing the vehicle policy.
The Standard sought reactions from State House through emails sent to both the director of press Amie Bojang Sissoho and Government Spokesperson Ebrima Sankareh to Mr Sanneh’s claims but none of them has responded or come up with any reaction yet.