The Supreme Court yesterday declared as unconstitutional lawmakers’ attempts to create a D54 million loan scheme and called for its scrapping from the 2021 budget.
The Supreme Court ruled that the National Assembly has no powers to create a new budget line in the budget estimates. Last November, nominated National Assembly member Ya-Kumba Jaiteh moved a motion to create a new budget line of D54.4 million as a loan scheme for lawmakers and staff of the National Assembly.
But two leading CSOs, Gambia Participates and Centre for Research and Policy Development, filed a legal challenge on the decision.
The groups filed a lawsuit at the Supreme Court seeking for the court to declare that the amendment done by the National Assembly is “in contravention of sections 151,152 and 155 of the Constitution and a violation of section 47 of the Public Finance Act, 2014”.
The groups also wanted a declaration that the approval of the annual estimates of revenue and expenditure for the year 2021 with the inclusion of the sum of D54.4 million as loan to National Assembly Members and staff of the National Assembly service was a ‘usurpation’ of the powers given to the president in section 152 of the Constitution and a violation of clause 70 of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly.
The groups wanted an order directing the Auditor General not to grant approval for the withdrawal of the sum of D54.4 million or any part of it by the National Assembly or the National Assembly Service.
They also wanted an order directing the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs not to pay from the Consolidated Fund or any Fund of the government the sum of D54.4 million or any money at all to the National Assembly members or staff of the National Assembly Service as loan pursuant to the approved estimates of revenue and expenditure of the Government for the year 2021.
In his ruling Tuesday, Justice Gibril Semega Janneh said the Constitution “does not accord the National Assembly the power to create a new budget line in the estimates. The National Assembly cannot pass a resolution creating its own budget line. The National Assembly cannot initiate its own budget line”.
Justice Janneh said the power to create a new budget line is vested in the President. “Any motion or resolution seeking to create a new budget must be brought by the Executive and not the National Assembly,” he said.
Gambia Participates reacts
In a statement shared with The Standard, Gambia Participates said: “Gambia, today we have saved you D54.4 million. In December 2020, in a joint suit with CRPD we took the National Assembly of the Gambia to court for creating a loan scheme for themselves in the 2021 budget. Today the Supreme Court has declared the action unlawful and called for the removal of the said amount from the 2021 budget”.