Our pie is stolen!

57

Budgeting in this country is a hoax. They pass the budget, the finance ministry spends state resources as they see fit. In the end, they come back to the lawmakers to legalise the illegal expenditure through an SAP.

And sometimes, they just come the following year to inform them about it. This is a yearly occurrence as though budget is not a law which must not be VIOLATED.

Then, NAO audit of the government’s financial statements—which lags by 1 or 2 years— comes to the Assembly floor with usual soundbites from lawmakers. The media reports it. They get famous for it. That is it!

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The following year, the finance ministry that spent the money anyhow comes to them and they approve another one.

Being lousy and giving soundbites to the media is not what sets one person from another. Principles do.

From 2017 to now, what lawmakers have done is doubled down in accumulating one excessive privilege to another: whether that is being given a community land or D100k to buy cloth or a vehicle which I am told is on its way or their first fleet of vehicles from an anonymous donor. They still pride themselves as reps of the people who live below a dollar a day (D1600 a month).

If the words are right, the speaker Tombong Jatta gets 10k a month to buy cloth. I am no math student but this is five times more than what 53% of Gambians make a month. A recent World Bank study said poverty rose from 48% to 53%.

This means that 5 in every 10 Gambian lives below one dollar a day (basically 1600 a month).

This country’s economy, we are told is struggling. Double digit inflation, rising poverty, shrinking revenue base, excessive corruption is here and more.

Salaries ought to be paid. Everyone is just travelling and government is hugely indebted to airlines. Public debt over D80b. Who can see any good outcome here?

Yet, the people in charge of cutting the pie have decided to keep it for themselves. All the people get are slogans and soundbites.

Mustapha K Darboe

Proposed salary increment for NAMs is unconstitutional and unjustified

The proposed increment in the salaries and allowances of NAMs should be challenged by citizens in court. At the same time, citizens should stage a massive national protest until this unjustified and unconstitutional proposal is abandoned. This increment is totally unjustified at a time when the country is facing a recession, if not a bankruptcy!

Both the Finance Minister and NAMs themselves have acknowledged that there is a global financial and economic recession aggravated by COVID and Ukraine war for which the Gambia is also facing severe economic challenges. A report by the World Bank and the Gambia Government released just a few weeks ago has indicated rising poverty in the country. They blamed the COVID pandemic primarily for the hardship.

Therefore what is the justification for increasing the salaries and allowances of NAMs and any other public officials at this time? How could more Gambians be lacking food on the table yet a few tens of public officials decide to share the national cake just among themselves as if they only own that cake? At least each and every NAM carries home tens of thousands of dalasi as salary that majority of the citizens don’t have.

Any NAM with conscience, like Hon. Touma Njai, should have been honest to himself or herself to reject this immoral increment. We therefore thank and celebrate Hon. Njai for her patriotic, conscientious and pragmatic stance for standing in sympathy and solidarity with the masses of her people by refusing to illegally enrich herself at the expense of the people.

Furthermore, what is the moral and legal justification for the set of allowances for NAMs? Why should citizens pay for the dress, telephone, residence and transportation of NAMs when they already have a fat salary? To be a National Assembly Member is to serve the society like how teachers, nurses, police officers and other public sector workers are doing. Public service is not a place to pamper individuals like princes and princesses. It is to serve and sacrifice for society.

NAMs must appreciate the salaries and incentives accorded to them and not seek to continuously increase them. The current level of salary and allowances for NAMs is more than enough for an economy like The Gambia. Anything more is not only unaffordable but also unjustified and illegal.

For example, the NAMs have not been loaded with any more work to require a salary increment. Their current salary is not too small against their current workload. The high cost of living does not affect them alone. In fact, NAMs are the highest paid among public sector workers. Therefore there is absolutely no justification for an increment in salaries and allowances. Even if there is a justification, such increment should not be more than 30% which is what public sector workers were given.

What I would have expected NAMs to do is to invest in the human and institutional building and strengthening of the National Assembly. This is to empower the Office of the Clerk with more highly qualified and competent professionals. It is to provide more modern working tools for the effective and efficient performance and delivery of staffs and units. It is to empower members of staff with more training to acquire more knowledge and better skills to better serve NAMs. The backbone of the National Assembly is the Office of the Clerk and this is where more funding is required to further strengthen it.

This is why the CSOs, political parties and citizens should challenge this increment if approved in court as it violates the Constitution. Section 112(b) states that, “all members shall regard themselves as servants of the people of The Gambia, desist from any conduct by which they seek improperly to enrich themselves or alienate themselves from the people, and shall discharge their duties and functions in the interest of the nation as a whole and in doing so, shall be influenced by the dictates of conscience and the national interest.”

The increments of salary and allowances of NAMs tantamount to self enrichment contrary to the Constitution and national interest. Everyone should call their NAM to ask them not to vote for this increment. What we expect NAMs to do is to reduce their allowances, if not abolish them in order to help the country sail through these trying times. This was what was suggested by Hon. Sidia Jatta way back in 2020.

No to salary and allowance increment.

Madi Jobarteh

Kembujeh