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Sunday, September 19, 2021

US says gov’t turns blind eye to corruption

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By Omar Bah

The United States Department of State has said since President Adama Barrow came to power in 2017, the Gambia Government has turned a blind eye to corruption.

In its latest investment climate statements published yesterday, the US Department of State said: “Since President Barrow took office in 2017, the government has turned a blind eye to corruption and no one has been convicted of corruption.

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“Low-level corruption is prevalent, and high-level corruption is likely common but remains underreported. Companies importing goods through Banjul Port report regularly being solicited for bribes.”

According to the report, foreign companies from certain countries routinely use inducements equivalent to bribery to secure Gambian government and parastatal contracts.

Asset declaration

President Barrow had promised during his presidential campaign that his government would be transparent and accountable to the Gambian people, and that cabinet ministers would publicly declare their assets.

However, according to the report, after taking office, he backtracked on his promise.

“Some ministers have yet to declare their assets, according to the report, but have declined to reveal their identities. Such declarations also do not include assets belonging to spouses and other immediate family members,” the report said.

The report added: “No international, regional, or local NGO operating as ‘watchdog’ organizations monitoring corruption are known to exist in the country.”

The anti-corruption laws of The Gambia extend to family members of officials and political parties alike, containing-laws or regulations that counter conflict-of-interest in awarding contracts or government procurement.

But according to the report, though there are laws in place to combat corruption by public officials in The Gambia, “These laws are ineffective because the committees, which are commissioned to enforce them, are yet to be fully established”.

It said The Gambia has signed and ratified the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offences but has not ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

The report said during former president Jammeh’s rule, the government did not provide protection to NGOs involved investigating corruption.

Political and security environment

The US Department of State advised Americans living in the country to avoid large political gatherings, as peaceful gatherings can potentially turn violent quickly.

“Opposition parties may or may not be issued permits, potentially resulting in unapproved rallies,” the report noted.

Remittance policies

The report also stated, the government has “no recent changes or plans to change investment remittance policies in The Gambia.

“Currently there are no time limitations on remittances and investors may repatriate profits and dividends through commercial banks or licensed money transfer agencies at prevailing exchange rates. There are no plans to tighten access to foreign exchange for investment remittances,” the report stated.

The report highlighted that remittance and capital transfers stood at USD 588 million in 2020, a 78% rise compared with 2019, leading to a positive balance of payments overall.

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