By Omar Bah
The National Audit Office (NAO) has confirmed it will, for the first time, audit the country’s Extractive Industry next year in an attempt to ensure transparency, accountability and maximise profit for the government.
Several investigations done on the mining industry by reputable institutions such as Gambia Participates and investigative platform Malagen revealed massive irregularities and lack of transparency in the country’s mining sector with communities decrying environmental devastation and exploitation by companies who among other things barely pay taxes.
According to NAO officials, the industry has never been audited but there is now a need to do so urgently to ensure the government realises the needed profit from the booming industry.
In January, the NAO organised a multi-stakeholder consultative workshop on the Extractive Industries (EI) Accountability, to prepare the auditors ahead.
The consultative convergence was hosted in collaboration with the African Organisation of English-speaking Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI-E).
Speaking to The Standard on the side-lines of that event recently, the NAO Deputy Auditor General 2, Buba Drammeh, said the NAO is resolved to now start auditing the industry.
He said the NAO will analyse the information they gathered during the three-day consultation with stakeholders and prepare auditors ahead especially with regards to the risk matrix, legal frameworks, award of licenses and contracts, monitoring of operations, assessment, collection and management of revenue, allocation and policies.
“We now want to develop an action plan which will determine our point of action now against the time we are going to have our first extractive industries audit report because we want to have at least one audit report next year. So, for this we will focus on identifying the risks and the audit types we want to use to respond to the risks which could be performance, compliance or financial audit,” he said. Drammeh said once that is identified and approved at the level of management, they will engage sister supreme audit institutions to support them technically to train the people who will do the different audits.
“Once those capacity development activities are completed, we will start our first audit exercise in the extractive industry effective January 2023. We are doing all this because the industry has never been audited before so it is a new area to the NAO,” he added.
Commenting on the importance of the meeting with stakeholders, Mr Drammeh said it would have been “suicidal” for the NAO to finalise the planned audit process without meeting its stakeholders.
“The amount of information and data that came out during these four days is impressive and of course we have had a series of stakeholder meetings with individual organisations but bringing them together has given us more information that we couldn’t have had speaking to them individually,” he said.
Commenting on the development, anti-corruption activist and executive director of Gambia Participates, Marr Nyang, welcomed the decision, saying it was long overdue.
“In The Gambia, the fiscal activities in both the extractive and non-extractive industry have long been done under the carpet which is susceptible to self-enrichment. In 2021, we at Gambia Participates supported some journalists to investigate sectors like the extractive industry whose revenue collections are under or not reported at all. The findings are unbelievable,” he said.
Nyang said he is confident that the NAO will expose high maladministration in the revenue administration. “But the question will be: what action will be taken by the government? Would they continue to be silent on the public sector corruption report which has been the factor of increased corruption in the Barrow administration?”
In a related development, the Minister of Petroleum Aboulie Jobe recently said government will ensure transparency in the sector to ensure it benefits Gambians.