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Taal says gov’t’s lack of interest to address corruption is alarming

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By Omar Bah

The spokesperson of the opposition UDP has expressed concern over government’s “lack of interest” to create the legal and governance architecture to address issues of corruption.

Speaking to The Standard in the wake of recent publications of the National Audit report and the former finance minister’s claims that State House blocked the implementation of the much talked-about vehicle policy, Almamy Taal said the Barrow administration has confined itself to the architecture of governance which is a legacy of the dictatorship that subjugated every other arm of the government to the executive.

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”This is the plan – this is designed under the 1997 constitution. Things as basic as local governance decentralisation has gone through a metamorphosis that a lot of Gambians do not even discuss,” Taal added. The Gambia, he argued, is so small that a serious theory of government will focus on making it a City State just like Singapore.

“I heard people saying the opposition’s silence is threatening but if at all it is about coming out and making comments, I don’t think there is any issue in that but for those comments to be meaningful we need to have a consensus on what is the government for and how do you make it effective in the 21st century,” he added.

Taal said Gambians should have consensus on the fundamental things required to transform the governance of this country from the “settlement we have in the 1997 constitution”.

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“Now if you want to discourage corruption there are certain things you have to learn from other countries that are established. For example, businesses and business people having very loose relationship with the executive – whether it is the managing director or the director general. These are things that cannot happen. In the West or progressive countries like Singapore, interactions between private businesses and the executive are very formal and are highly regulated. So that is where you start but we have seen here TV recordings where ministers are going to have dinner in the homes of Chinese business people and all kinds of mingling between officials of government and private businesses on terms and conditions that nobody understands. I am saying all these for us to understand that without good governance, rule of law and good laws in general, all these democratic promises we have been making to each other are not going to be effective because a well-governed society is based on rules that everybody follows. But as it is now, it seems our governance is about headlines. You open The Standard Newspaper you see a new policy intention or a new statement from a minister about governance. So at the end of the day, it is about us building a consensus around how we want to be governed in the 21sth century,” he argued.

Taal said Gambians would have to decide whether they want to keep the 1997 constitution for ever or bring about fundamental reforms so that the governance is based on laws that are helpful and empowering to the citizens.

He said unless the governance architecture is changed, Gambians will continue to blame each other unnecessarily.  

“The important thing for politicians like myself is the need to understand that this is a very small country and the roles of governance should be similarly simple. You talked about a vehicle policy but we are talking about urbanisation where many people are living in flood prone areas and government seems to have no idea on how to address these issues.  All these are things that we can sit and discuss about but we cannot do this without the overarching architecture of governance that is making the three arms of government to be checking on each other,” he noted.

He said parliament is there to make laws but because of the way the constitution has vested its powers, it is practically powerless to even make laws.

“Since 2017, how many laws have been made in The Gambia? People like me have been calling for law reform on a very significant scale – we have a Law Reform Commission since 1983 but it has been so unproductive and the productiveness of parliament itself is a matter of question because there has been no legal department until recently and even that, its autonomy is very limited and up to now, the constitution gives its right for the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and other members to be nominated by the president,” he lamented.

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