US say Gambia not fiscally transparent

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By Alagie Manneh

The U.S. has classified the Gambia government among those that are not fiscally transparent.

The classification, contained in a report released Thursday by the U.S Department of State, means Gambia’s budgeting process, including its contracting and licensing processes in the extractive industry, did not meet the standards required of the American government.

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The report, called the 2019 Fiscal Transparency Report, covers January 1 to 31 December, 2018.

It assessed the fiscal transparency of 141 national governments that receive U.S assistance.

Seventy-four of the 141 governments met the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency, while 13 of the 67 that fell short of the standards made “significant progress”, the report said.

The Gambia is neither among the 74 that met the minimum requirements nor among the 13 adjudged to have made significant progress.

Some of the African countries classified alongside The Gambia are Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia.

Gabon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Togo, Tanzania, Sudan, South Sudan, Niger, Mozambique, Mali, Lesotho, and Cameroon are also among the African countries whose governments failed the U.S transparency assessment.

“During the review period, the government made its executive budget proposal available online. Its enacted budget was only available for purchase in hard copy.

Its end-of-year report was not published. Only limited information on aggregate debt obligations was publicly available.

Budget documents lacked complete information on natural resource revenues as well as earnings from state-owned enterprises,” the report said of The Gambia.

“The government maintained off-budget accounts that supported military and intelligence spending in particular and were not subject to adequate oversight or audit.

The Gambia’s supreme audit institution was responsible for auditing the government’s annual executed budget, but it did not publish audit reports within a reasonable period of time.

The criteria and procedures by which the national government awards contracts or licenses for natural resource extraction were not specified in law.

Basic information about natural resource extraction awards was not publicly available,” it stated.

It said for The Gambia’s fiscal transparency to improve, the government must take the following steps:

· Publishing its enacted budget online and making its end-of-year report available within a reasonable period of time,
· Making sure budget documents are complete,
· Subjecting off-budget accounts and military and intelligence spending to adequate audit and oversight,
· Ensuring the supreme audit institution publishes audit reports within a reasonable period of time,
· Specifying in law or regulation the procedures and criteria for awarding natural resource extraction contracts and licenses and following those laws and regulations in practice, and
· Making basic information about natural resource extraction awards publicly available.

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