The Gambia For All (GFA) party recently lamented over an allegation in an investment climate statement by US Department of State, that the Barrow Administration is turning a blind eye to corruption. This is a very serious national issue as we indicated previously and since then many prominent Gambians, including Imams, the media, and concerned citizens have joined the chorus to condemn this most corrosive of societal evils. If corruption becomes endemic in a society; 1) it is generally not easy to root it out, 2) it drastically undermines development efforts to the detriment of all and, 3) its corrosive effects lead to criminality and social instability. A GFA Administration will take an uncompromising stand against corruption. The Secretary General of GFA, Hon. Bakary B Dabo, briefly touched on this issue in a recent interview. In this article, we expand on the various tools that could be employed to rein in corruption in our country. In our view and in broad terms, there are four main components to fighting corruption as discussed below.
1. Leading by example: Going by the recent Afrobarometer report, it seems clear that majority of Gambians see corruption increasing from the President’s office to even the religious leaders. Clearly, if top officials in government and in society are either perceived to be corrupt or unwilling to fight corruption, then it becomes difficult for such individuals to be seen serious in their condemnation of corruption and are consequently ineffectual in curbing corruption. Therefore, to effectively fight corruption, it is extremely important for there to be an attitudinal shift against bribery and all acts of wrongdoing. The leadership of a GFA government will not fall short in fighting corruption using existing anti-corruption protocols such as the Constitution of The Gambia on internal codes of conduct, the signed and ratified AU Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption, and the ratified UN Anti– corruption Convention. These measures would allow the electorate to judge a GFA administration’s seriousness and performance in fighting corruption and malfeasance.
2. Will power to fight corruption: Given the insidious nature of corruption and the harm it causes to society, a GFA administration would confront it wherever it rears its ugly head. There should be appropriate and proportional penalty for corrupt practices as a deterrent and, it would be the responsibility of everyone in society to unmask it and hold perpetrators accountable. In an effort to unmask corrupt practices in government, a GFA administration would encourage exposure of bribery, theft of public funds and wrongdoing at all levels. By working in partnership with Transparency International, Civil Society Organizations, journalists, and concerned citizens, a GFA government would consider developing best practices that would help minimize corruption and ensure that public funds are used for public good.
3. Strengthening and Building the Capability of Accounting and Auditing Institutions: Twenty-two years of Dictatorship and lack of institutional reforms by the Barrow Administration, have left many of our public institutions very weak with insufficient capacity. A GFA Administration would carry out a thorough review of our public institutions coupled with staff development programmes with a view to strengthening the institutions in order that they could carry out their mandate properly and efficiently. Proper accounting and auditing of public finances are a prerequisite to ensuring that all public funds are properly accounted for and used in the way they are intended. The professionalism and investigative capacity of the relevant agencies responsible for safeguarding public funds would be enhanced and, an open and fair Anti-Corruption Commission/Agency with prosecutorial powers could be put in place to uncover, recover and hold perpetrators to account.
4. Following due process: A GFA government shall strictly follow the principle of the Rule of law. Everyone shall be given an opportunity to defend themselves if accused of wrongdoing. The current laws shall be strictly applied to fight corruption and, if necessary new ones, shall be promulgated to strengthen existing laws to fight this scourge of our society. A fair but expeditious adjudication of corrupt cases will be encouraged and whenever possible, stolen public funds will be fully recovered in addition to any other penalties that may be imposed by courts, for those convicted of theft.
We firmly believe that if these types of policies are implemented, corruption in our government and society at large will be significantly reduced. Public funds are for the benefit of everyone in our society and, a few privileged individuals should not be allowed to steal these funds, simply because they have access to them.