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Friday, September 22, 2023

Finance minister appears before Assembly over Senegambia Bridge

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By Tabora Bojang

Finance Minister Seedy Keita on Monday appeared before members of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly to brief NAMs about the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Framework Agreement between the Government of The Gambia and Africa50 to manage the Senegambia bridge. He had initially said the agreement has not reached the stage when ratification from the assembly would be needed. But faced with mounting criticism for not consulting or seeking approval from the assembly, Mr Keita duly responded and made himself available for questions.

When contacted to comment on the outcome of his meeting with NAMs, the minister referred us to a statement issued by his ministry on his parliamentary appearance.

 That statement reads: “Referencing Section 155 of the 1997 Constitution and related clauses as well as Section35 of the Public Finance Act, 2014, it was unanimously understood that the honourable minister did not need to consult parliament when entering into a financing agreement as well as during the process of the agreement. However, it was clearly agreed that before the proposed agreement enters into force, the legal ratification may be assented to by the legislative body.”

The statement further said the minister also briefed the NAMs about what necessitated the agreement and how Africa50 came about.

The Standard contacted the FPAC chairman, Alagie S Darboe, who said his committee has agreed with the minister to table the agreement after cabinet goes over it.

He said although the minister has powers to sign an agreement but such agreements can only be implemented after given parliamentary approval.

“At the moment there is no final agreement. They are in the process of developing the agreement. When that is done it will be tabled in cabinet and then in parliament for ratification before it is enforced. He has powers to negotiate and sign agreements but before it is enforced it must be approved by the Assembly,” Darboe said.

He added that the minister informed them that it may take up to September before these processes are completed.

Asked what would be the stand of parliament if the agreement is found not to be in the national interest, the minority leader replied: “We cannot comment on something that is not even finalised. If the agreement is tabled before the Assembly we are also obliged to interpret it and come up with our stance.”

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