The disclosure by the director of press Amie Bojang Sissoho that the 57 cars given to National Assembly members were donated by anonymous philanthropist supporter of President Barrow has drawn a sharp and mixed reaction from Gambians.
Since the cars were presented to the Speaker several weeks ago, concerns have been expressed as to how they were acquired with all four NAMs of PDOIS insisting they must first know the source and condition before they would take them.
The four cars meant for them still remain parked at the Assembly building.
However speaking at her regular press briefing, presidential spokesperson Amie Bojang Sisosho provided answers, only that it seems to raise more questions than answers. She said the cars were donated by a philanthropist supporter of the president who does not want to be named.
Madi Jobarteh, an outspoken commentator of political matters and deputy director of TANGO, said the secret donation to the president by the anonymous philanthropist is “completely unconstitutional”.
“The reason why Barrow should surrender the vehicles and identify the donor is to ascertain whether or not the donor has any contract or negotiating a contract with the Gambia Government. If he or she is having or negotiating a contract then this gift is illegal,” Jobarteh argued.
He maintained that no one can know the facts unless President Barrow declares the gift. “Thus the fact that Barrow has failed to do that so far means he is currently violating the constitution,” he said.
Jobarteh added that if an anonymous donor genuinely wishes to help the Gambia without any strings attached, “why cannot he or she present the vehicles to the president or parliament publicly as his or her contribution to national development?”
Sidi Sanneh, a Gambian blogger, and an analyst said Barrow must understand that he is heading a transition government “whose primary task is to start repairing a tattered economy and broken and dysfunctional institutions”.
The Gambian chapter of Anti corruption international ACI also issued a statement yesterday saying it is extremely worried about the non disclosure of the source of the 57 vehicles.
“Furthermore the organization is extremely worried about the secrecy surrounding asset declarations by the cabinet. In addition, the organization seriously deplores ways and means by which public servants have been appointed without due compliance to anti-corruption procedure thereby the actions of the government is a violation in particular Article 7: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 of the AU Convention on Prevention and Combatting Corruption (2003-2006),” the ACI statement said.
However, not everyone thinks Barrow is wrong. Bamba Sering Mass said:
“The acceptance of gift by the president cannot be unconstitutional by merely gauging it with the code of conduct for public officers.
Secondly, President Barrow is under no obligation to identify the donor of those vehicles since it is clearly stated that the donor is a supporter of Mr Barrow.
“We elect the president to be our representative but that does not necessarily mean that his office is public office. Whether an office is a public office or not is a matter of constitutional dictate,” Mass said.