By Tabora Bojang
The Finance and Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly, FPAC, yesterday presented its report to the National Assembly plenary, which presented a gloomy picture of the state of financial unaccountability in government with millions of imprest yet to be accounted for. Presenting the report covering 2019 to 2021, committee vice chairman and member for Upper Saloum Alhagie Mbowe revealed that FPAC had audience with the Accountant General on the status of the repayment of outstanding imprest issued to ministries, departments and agencies and he informed them that the sum of D31.7 million was confirmed as outstanding imprest, out of which only D2.5 million was recovered. Mbowe said the Accountant General however clarified that his office had written to all the sectors affected with the names of the persons the imprest was issued to but unfortunately, they discovered that the majority of the officers involved have left the service and some of them could not be located.
FPAC chairman Mbowe, himself a former banker, further reported that committee members expressed disappointment with such an attitude of public officers “mishandling public funds.”
“The Committee directed the Accountant General to take further steps and use all avenues to recover the monies because every imprest issued by the Accountant General must be given a timeline within which it must be retired and any failure to do so should result in sanctions,” the FPAC urged in the report.
Contributing to the report, Central Baddibu NAM Sulayman Saho said there should be a list of the names of persons who are owing the state with unretired the imprest by the end of the day. “They need to pay back these monies in one month’s time, wherever they are on earth. So we must pursue these people to pay back these imprests. This is taxpayers’ money. We cannot have people take our money and say we don’t know how to trace them. That is not possible. Even if they fly to the moon we have to go and get them,” Saho argued.
The Majority Leader Billay G Tunkara said the Constitution has clearly stated that wherever discrepancies of a criminal or a fraudulent nature are discovered during an audit of an account by the auditor general he shall submit reports of his or her findings to the IGP for actions.
“So, there is no legal lacuna. There are no limitations and therefore I expect the committee to capture this point and instruct the Auditor General to act forthwith to make sure that the findings are sent to the IGP for further actions,” the Kantora NAM urged.
The Member for Upper Fulladu West, Bakary Kora stated that “it cannot be business as usual and it is about time the narrative changed. Sometimes we complain that there is no money in this country but for me, I say a big no. Gambia is among the richest countries in the sub-region. The problem with Gambia is the attitude. When we talk about corruption people look at the president, the executive and judiciary but remember those at the lower levels are even more corrupt than the executive. There are a lot of lapses. Of the one hundred percent of the tax collected by the government, only 54 percent comes to the government while 46 percent goes away,” he said.