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‘Public servants must be contented to avoid corruption’

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By Omar Bah

The National Assembly Member for Upper Saloum has argued that for any country to succeed in its drive to fight corruption its people have to demonstrate honesty and contentment when dealing with public resources.

Reacting to a question on the damning findings of the National Audit Office on the first Covid-19 expenditure report and general perception of public sector corruption, Honourable Alhagie Mbow said contentment is the value that can deter people from becoming selfish and greedy.

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“A contented person does not live above his/her means but cuts his/her coat according to his means. So, above all people must be very content with what they are paid because no matter how good our laws are, if people are not content it would be difficult to address the issue of corruption,” he told The Standard.

He added that corruption is everywhere in the world – even the most advanced democracies are battling with issues of corruption but there are laws and mitigating tactics that could help to reduce.

“For example, digitalisation which the Gambia Revenue Authority has started to explore to avoid exchange of cash. I think when we reduce the cash transaction in the government it is going to help reduce corruption because if you go to advanced democracies, you hardly see people carrying cash. In fact, the less cash we use, the more it helps the central bank to sustain bank notes,” he said.

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He said the government should develop more robust avenues to limit cash transactions.

“We should also have laws that clearly define penalties for people found quilty of corruption. The current Public Finance Act should be reviewed to ensure its provisions are clearly defined,” he added.

Audit report

“We have already reviewed the first report and made recommendations and we were supposed to come up with a resolution but that didn’t materialise because we want to wait for the second phase which has already been submitted to the National Assembly. We will review it and make a comprehensive resolution at the end,” he added.

Embassies

Despite calls for the country to downsize its embassies to save money, the National Assembly has approved the expenses for three new embassies, in Japan, Germany and Sweden.

Former finance minister Amadou Sanneh had argued that the country doesn’t need embassies in Sierra Leone, Bissau, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Spain and Brussels.

But according to Honourable Mbow, Gambia has embassies in few countries and those embassies are very strategic and the question of sustaining them is debatable.

“I know a lot of people are saying that it is not justifiable but they have not told us why. Yes, we can understand the cost attached to sustain them but when creating an embassy in any country you don’t just consider the cost but also the relationship between The Gambia and that country and the Gambians residing there,” he stated.

He said the new Embassy in Sweden is justifiable because there are many Gambians in Scandinavia and there are a good number of tourists coming from there. “So, I think the justification to have new embassies in Germany and Sweden is reasonable and very necessary. If you come to Africa, countries like Senegal, Mauritania and Bissau – we have a very good relationship with them,” he said.  

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