By Omar Bah
The executive director of civic society group Gambia Participates has urged Gambia’s donor community to use The Global Fund’s case as a source of inspiration to implore tougher monitoring mechanisms on the government to ensure it utilises their funds judiciously to address corruption.
Last week, government announced it will refund The Global Fund D10 million queried by an internal audit report to have been spent without compliance with procedure. According to sources this followed a strong position taken by the body on the audit query of the management of its malaria component funds between January 2018 to September 2021 and a demand for an urgent solution to the issue.
Commenting on the government’s decision to refund the money Marr Nyang said: “It is a continuous cover up for thieves in suits in the government, but well done to The Global Fund. If they were not too vigilant and insistent on getting their stolen monies back, this case would have been buried under the carpet. I think other donors must follow suit. The implication of this scandal means that new donors will probably look for other destinations with a good reputation for financial management, thus, The Gambia will lose millions of dollars.”
Mr Nyang added that the Global Fund debacle could force the country’s existing donors to take a step back and probably cut donor support if they know their taxpayers’ monies donated to support underdeveloped countries like Gambia will end up in individual pockets.
“Like I said before, this government is sinking in a corruption pool and the system is so designed to protect accountability from taking place. There is no need to set up a commission of inquiry; it is a waste of money and only a political move as recently seen with the commission established to investigate councils. What must be prioritised is the legislation of an independent anti-corruption body by parliament to deter, detect, investigate and sanction corruption,” Nyang said.
In a related development, a US-based Gambian social and political commentator, Pa Samba Jaw too weighed in the matter: “The government’s statement to refund Global Fund is quite disquieting, because if anything, it demonstrates the level of misappropriation of funds that continues to happen unabated. Sadly, the statement reinforces people’s perception of corruption within our government, especially at the ministry of health.”
On the implications, Jaw said, the country’s donor partners will be wary of doing business with “our government because issues like this do nothing but undermine trust”.
“This is yet another illustration of a government that has run amok, especially as it pertains to corruption. Issues like this are the reason why Gambians are extremely skeptical of the Barrow government’s true motives in setting up a commission of inquiry to investigate the local government councils. If President Barrow and his government are truly serious about fighting corruption, they would have used the many audit reports, which are replete with corruption allegations, to prosecute those found wanting including officials at State House. You don’t need a commission of inquiry to fight corruption because the government has all the information at its disposal, and nothing is stopping the IGP and the AG Chambers to use that information to investigate and prosecute those alleged to have misappropriated public funds. So, in a nutshell, selective or politically motivated investigations will never serve as a serious or effective tool to fight corruption.
“Sadly, while the majority of Gambians continue to wallow in abject poverty, due largely to corruption, the Gambia government would rather use taxpayers’ money to repay the unauthorised expenditure of over D10 million, than hold those responsible to account. The culture of naked impunity points to a government that will rather engage in window dressing than fight for the poor and the downtrodden,” he concluded.