It is exactly eight months since coming to power, and one would have expected nothing but wise spending from a government that has inherited an already ‘dead’ economy with the coffers virtually ’empty’.
Today, the crisis of political leadership in Africa is partly due to the unvarying and unwise spending of public money, mainly on travelling. Politicians seek office to enrich themselves and their cronies through frequent travelling collecting per diems in the name of ‘working for the country’ at the expense of the masses of the people (the poor).
History of African politics taught us that some governments come to power on the pretext of wiping out wide corruption, administrative inefficiency and general waste of public funds, but many a times, the contrary is the case. The successor to Nkrumah’s government in Ghana became corrupt and ran Ghana’s economy into failure. When Kenneth Kaunda was accused of presiding over a corrupt government for 27 years and replaced by Frederick Chiluba through the polls, Zambians became hopeful that the economy will be put into its proper context and corruption will be the past in Zambian politics. Chiluba however, became a disappointment and was accused of corruption himself.
When Yaya Jammeh came to power, he accused the Jawara government of misusing public funds, describing the flamboyant lives of ministers and other top government officials. Jammeh and his government became not much different, in fact worse in terms of misuse of public funds. This is very much evident in the recent revelations by the Commission of Inquiry.
Mr. President, in this regard, Gambians did not only vote for a change of government but a change of system. We were with the hope that our political leadership will be honest enough to prudently manage our resources after complaining of finding the coffers ’empty’. But one may ask the question of where we are getting the money to sponsor all the frequent travels, from air tickets, accommodation costs to per diems.
The per diem for ministers per night is reportedly £300. Calculate this for a minister who is to spend 16 days away. It is either the coffers are not really empty or the so-called financial aid we have received from so-called development partners are being used to sponsor the trips you and your ministers embarked on. Apart from few ministers in the cabinet, the rest have been either travelling with you or going alone even if they have no business to do in some of your trips. Ministers and other top government officials including you must understand that their offices are not meant for personal enrichment. But sadly, this is a continent where corruption and misuse of public funds are seen to be norms, condone and celebrated. For this reason, those who refuse to join cabinet and work in other government portfolios, leaving simple lives are seen to aimless. As of now, the government under your leadership has inherited billions of dalasi debt, both domestic and external at a public debt ratio of 115% as at the end of 2016, totaling debt stock at D48.3 billion comprising D20.3 billion for external and D28 billion for domestic. Despite efforts to put the economy on its feet, concomitantly, frequent travels by top government officials are becoming worrying.
As you just returned from the United Nations General Assembly 72nd session, it must be made clear how many people accompanied you to New York. It has been reported that 53 people were part of the delegates, a figure we cannot confirm, but we have seen individuals who we will seriously doubt if they have anything to do at the session. For the sake of transparency and accountability, the ‘New’ Gambia demands public explanation of government trips in terms of finance of number of delegates, especially for such major events.
In light of this, there is the urgent need to minimise travelling and sit in offices to do the real work. Travelling outside and begging will not solve our problem