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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Lawmakers reject FM’s plea for speedy passage of bill to get US$20M WB grant

By Tabora Bojang

Wuli West lawmaker Sidia Jatta has blasted the executive for urging parliament to meet in a special session to wrap up their work on the Gambia Public Procurement Bill 2020 to avoid missing out on a US$20 million grant from the World Bank.

Finance Minister Mambury Njie had tabled a proposal before a joint session of the National Assembly Finance and Public Accounts Committee and the Public Enterprises Committee to fast track procedures for promulgation of the Public Procurement Bill 2020 before this Friday.

FM Njie said his proposal was by no means a dictation of parliamentary procedures but explained that his ministry was negotiating with the World Bank for a US$20 million grant but the bank insisted the GPPA bill be tabled before parliament before the grant is released.

But in his reaction, the veteran socialist lawmaker described the minister’s proposal as “interesting” and said it was an attempt to “debase” the authority and fundamental functions of parliament.

“This institution [parliament] does not make laws because there is money coming into the country. In fact, that is not how laws are made and as long as the process is ongoing and however it may take, the committee cannot submit its report before the plenary,” Jatta who is also the FPAC chairman said.

“I think we should even not talk about this. It is like debasing the institution,” he observed.

The chairman of the Public Enterprises Committee Halifa Sallah explained that the bill was committed to his committee following its second reading in parliament to review, consult and report to the plenary its findings and recommendations on the GPPA bill. 

“With all honesty, I don’t think we can even prolong this conversation because the committees have no authority to touch a single column from the bill. It is the plenary that has the power to amend the clauses and pass the bill.  This is why we are engaging stakeholders including your ministry [Finance] to ensure the bill goes through all the right procedures and we take those recommendations to the plenary for adoption,” Sallah added.

Harping on the urgency of the matter, Minister Njie cautioned: “Our responsibility is to convey this message to you [lawmakers] to deal with the situation because we did not realise that the bill must be enacted before they [WB] could release the US$20 million.”

The minister, together with his team including the accountant general, Central Bank governor and the GPPA director general left parliament and assured that they were not attempting to dictate to parliament. They expressed their optimism that even though they failed to impress the lawmakers with the urgency of the matter, the country will not likely lose the grant.

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