By Mariama Jallow
Gambia Participates, in collaboration with the International Budget Partnership (IBP), hosted a workshop on Thursday with other civil society organizations to discuss how the government spent funds allocated for COVID-19 response.
Gambia Participates is a youth-led civil society organization that works on fighting against corruption in The Gambia. It aims to enhance transparency and accountability in the public sector by leveraging modern digital tools and other methods to track the expenditures of the government, and to engage people on these expenditures.
The first case of COVID-19 in The Gambia was recorded in March of 2020. According to Gambia Participates, not long after, the government created a D500 million COVID-19 relief fund and an additional D700 million for food aid which was allocated to 84,000 households in addition to a supplementary bill of D2.4 billion.
Marr Nyang, the chief executive of Gambia Participates, said “there was little or no opportunity for the citizens to participate in the formulation and implementation of stimulus packages as the government did not adopt key measures to enhance transparency and accountability in the implementation of the COVID-19 policy and fiscal response, as well as transparency on the procurement of goods and services.”
Marr added that “civil society organizations need to act now to strengthen accountability in ongoing responses to the COVID-19 crisis and put in place mechanisms for citizen participation in the formulation, approval and execution of additional emergency fiscal policy packages.”
Yadicon Njie Eribo, the national coordinator of Forum for African Women Educationalists – The Gambia Chapter (FAWEGAM) said “women are dying giving birth while Gambians go to Senegal to receive healthcare services. It’s time for us to wake up.”
The IBP conducted a COVID-19 rapid assessment in 120 countries including The Gambia between December 2020 and January 2021 to assess the government’s emergency fiscal packages during the COVID-19 response. The IBP in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), Gulati Institute of Finance and Taxation (GIFT) and other institutions created a set 26 indicators to measure the transparency, oversight and public participation of COVID-19 relief funds.
The rapid assessment was on a scale of zero to one. The categories consisting of minimal, limited, some, adequate or substantial. For half of the indicators, The Gambia scored minimal for 10 of them and limited for the other 6.