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Minister says Local Gov’t Commissioners not appointed on partisan lines

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By Tabora Bojang

The Minister of Lands and Regional Government Abba Sanyang has told the National Assembly that in appointing members of the commission of inquiry into the local government councils, government does not know or consider their political affiliations.

The minister was responding to the Member of Banjul Central Abdoulie Njai who said members of the commission are known to be formidable members of a certain party which could undermine the impartiality of the commission.

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Last week, Banjul Mayor Rohey Lowe filed a lawsuit at the High Court against the Attorney General Dawda Jallow and commissioners Samba Faal, Oreme Joiner and Alhagie Sillah seeking for the court to declare that their appointment violates her right to a fair hearing ‘because they are members or sympathisers’ of the ruling NPP and APRC.

But in his response, Minister Sheriff Abba Sanyang told lawmakers that questions over the composition of the commission or commissioners’ partisanship are unreliable.

“The commissioners are Gambians and doyens in the service and we don’t know about their political affiliations. In any case, if you want to check political affiliations of people in that sense, then there would be no system working in this country,” he said.

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Asked why is the commission is focusing on local councils and not the many irregularities and corruption allegations surrounding the central government, he replied: “This commission has been set up to carry an independent and impartial inquiry into the state of affairs of councils spurred  by factors like “ report of fraud by the mayor of KMC and a counter allegation of fraud by his  CEO; allegations by five BCC councillors of mismanagement in Banjul, reports of forgery and unauthorised withdrawal of cash in Basse Area Council, administrative instability in the Janjanbureh Area Council and accusations that KMC is employing and increasing salaries unwarranted or unapproved” by the ministry of lands.  Now how do you see all those situations? It is an act of impunity within a system? Government finds it very necessary to bring a check to the situation before it can lead to any other situation. Some people may think about the timing but from our ministry’s end timing does not matter. We are all aware about the reports of KMC and BCC during the National Assembly sittings. We have all seen the revelations”.

The Member for Bakau Assan Touray, who was displeased by the minister’s response charged: “Minister, time does not matter to you but to us as Gambians time matters. Is it appropriate to set up a commission 3 months before the [local government] elections?   

The Minister replied: “Yes it is appropriate.”

The Member for Kiang West Lamin Ceesay also quizzed the minister to explain the basis of the information that councils are marred by financial mismanagement. Was it an audit report submitted to your ministry or to the National Assembly?

“This was an outcome of audit reports,” Minister Sanyang said.

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