By Tabora Bojang
Members of the National Assembly have defended the controversial payment of D100, 000 clothing allowance some describing it as one of the lowest in the sub-region.
The NAMs have come under fire since the news drew condemnations from many quarters, accusing them of being insensitive to the economic realities of the country.
Some argue the allowance undermines their morality to hold the executive to account over its fiscal excesses.
Responding to these concerns, Serrekunda West NAM Madi Ceesay, told The Standard that it is not out of place for lawmakers to receive a one-off payment of D100,000 when their counterparts in other countries like Ghana are pocketing home a double of such figures.
“Lawmakers in Ghana are given a monthly wardrobe allowance of 1000 Ghanaian cedi, which is equivalent to $1000. On top of that, the Ghanaian MPs are also given 3500-cedi, equivalent to the same amount in dollars as entertainment allowance, and they are also given 45 gallons of fuel weekly, aside from other entitlements. If you put it together, an MP in Ghana goes home in a month with 34,683 cedi or $34,683. So, to have a NAM receive D100,000 clothing allowance for 5 years is not out of bound. This [D100,000] is for 5 years and it is equivalent to D20,000 every year which is less than D2000 every month,” Madi charged.
He dismissed suggestions that the allowances will unable members to hold the executive to account, saying the money is ‘not a gift from President Adama Barrow’s pocket or his executive.’
“This is a budget allocated to the NA as an independent body. There is a budget allocated to the Office of the President, Agriculture and Health Ministries. So, I don’t see the insensitivity of NAMs to the health, education and agriculture needs of the citizens when the resource envelope is allocated among all the ministries and sectors,” Ceesay added.
Central Baddibu NAM, Sulayman Saho claimed Gambian lawmakers are the lowest paid in the West African subregion which is why they are treated and viewed with contempt by their counterparts at international events.
He explained that the allowance was also initiated to crush every temptation that may affect the work of the NAMs.
“Dress code matters a lot. When some of the NAMs came to the Assembly in 2017, they were struggling and it was the Yai Kompins who were buying them clothes. This allowance will serve as a way of settlement for new members to cover their clothing needs instead of running from one institution or donor to the other. In fact, we are the lowest paid MPs in the subregion. This is why some NAMs feel bad when they attend international events because they sympathise with us over our poor conditions. Yes, our economy is not good but if we are giving dressing allowance to judges, auditors and other institutions, what of the National Assembly? If Gambians want us to judiciously do our work and deliver, we must give away from temptations,” the UDP lawmaker added.
Old Yundum NAM, Abdoulie Ceesay also wrote on Facebook:
“As a representative, having been re-elected for my second term in office, there was no point in time that I received D100,000 for clothing allowance every month, all I have received is a one-off payment equal to the said amount for five years. Meaning, I am only entitled to D1,666 monthly as a clothing allowance. Logically, the clothing allowance is significant for members, having considered that MPs can’t attend a session in parliament wearing normal jeans and T-shirts. It’s therefore imperative for the Government (National Assembly) to give such allowance to enable members to change their clothing style.”