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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The unknown ‘supporter’s’ vehicles to parliamentarians: a threat to democratic accountability and transparency

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By Essa Njie

I must start by stating that managing a country is far different from managing a family or household. It must be made clear that you are managing the former and every action you take that does not concern your private life shall be subjected to scrutiny and you ought to be hold to account for such actions. In fact, once you become a president, very little is private about your life and actions.

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The statement by the press director concerning the source of the vehicles donated to parliamentarians is the least we expect from her. This st

atement is not only disappointing but constitutes a huge threat to democratic accountability and transparency. Mr. President, it ought to be known that philanthropic gestures for the state cannot be secret in any form. No one should pretend to be ‘good’ or possess that messiah quality to the extent of donating to the president and prefer to remain anonymous. Essa Njie being poor, has no car to take him to work every day but received a gift from a good Samaritan who prefers to remain anonymous is different from Adama Barrow receiving gifts from the same Samaritan and prefers to remain anonymous especially when such vehicles are in turn given to the country’s law makers.

This is because the latter is a symbol of the state by virtue of his position as ‘Mr. President’ while the former is just an ordinary sovereign Gambian. This difference must be clearly spelt out for us to understand that the president represents the state which comprises the people.

Furthermore, it is nothing less but morally degrading for the press director to tell the nation that those vehicles are gifts from your supporter who does not want his name to be revealed. Who knows if that supporter unscrupulously acquired the vehicles or the money used to buy the vehicles Who knows the relationship you already have with this ‘supporter’ who wants to remain anonymous In fact, how can we be convinced that the vehicles are truly from a ‘supporter’ since there is no evidence as of now to show that they are from a ‘supporter’? The source remains unclear!

Mr. President, Gambians must not forget easily. We had a government in power for nearly 30 years, left and had some officials investigated for alleged financial mismanagement. Another came and spent 22 years, left and currently has some of its officials facing questions at the Janneh Commission. Who knows what will happen when your government is no more and needs to face questions for certain financial dealings? Then we might need another commission.

Moreover, another very reason why such gifts must not be taken is that you can be tempted to do certain things which might go against national interest. Jammeh had business partners who were doing everything for him while he nearly sold our country to them because they had access to all they needed at the detriment of ordinary Gambians. Do we know if the same can be replicated through your relationship with this unknown supporter? Indeed it is possible.

For the sake of accountability and transparency, few parliamentarians decided to initially question the source of the vehicles and on what condition were they given out on. This was seen by many who do not possess an understanding of how government operates as ‘unnecessary’. But I salute these two or four parliamentarians for raising the right questions at the right time. Their move was to ensure that democratic accountability and transparency characterise our politics without attempting to return to the past.

I therefore call on your office to come outright and reveal to us the true source of these vehicles with minimum delay. Without that, I urge the parliamentarians to return the vehicles if they are honest and have the interest of the ordinary Gambian at heart and are interested in building a truly new Gambia characterised by democratic accountability and transparency. Return the vehicles if you do not want to be remote-control just as Jammeh did.

In addition, I even consider the donation of such vehicles from one arm of government to another as a threat to the principles of Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances. It must be understood that these are two separate bodies with their powers checked to ensure that one does not override its functions. Therefore I would consider the donation of such vehicles as a move to buy and remote control our members of parliament since it is seen by some as a favour, including the Speaker and the Tourism and Culture minister during their speech at the donation ceremony.

I will not say that NAMs should not be given vehicles; in fact they deserve more for I consider this arm as the most significant within the realm of government. When ministers are given vehicles then parliamentarians deserve it equally. When judges and magistrates and lawyers are given vehicles then our parliamentarians equally deserve to be given. Therefore the money to buy such vehicles should come from the government’s coffers which should be taken care of in the budget and not from the president through a so-called supporter.
Yours in the service of the nation

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