By Musa Bah
A few months ago, it was announced in the media that you had donated a vehicle to the Gambia Radio and Television Services. Many of us expressed great concern over the announcement and what it purported to say. We expressed the view that in a democracy it should not be that the president should be presented as the ‘benevolent father of the nation dishing out favours as he pleases’, and that the proper channels should be followed in fulfilling the rights of the public servants.
One would have thought that lessons would be learnt and that this type of presentation – or that type of reporting – will be avoided in the future. However, recently, it was again announced that the Members of the National Assembly were each being presented with a brand new vehicle for the effective implementation of their roles due to your ‘personal effort’. What your ‘personal effort’ means has not been explained; thus, it is not clear to Gambians.
Does ‘the president’s personal effort’ imply that you negotiated a loan from which these vehicles were purchased? Does it mean that through a relationship you have with a particular organisation or country these vehicles were donated? Does it mean that you insisted that the vehicles be bought from our taxpayers’ money? If the answer is the latter, then from which account? We, the People of the Gambia, demand answers to the foregoing questions.
It is no doubt essential for the National Assembly Members to have their own vehicles so as to do their work effectively. This is welcome news and should indeed be commended, but the perception that it is due to the personal kindness of the president that the vehicles were received is undemocratic. We must speak a language that is consistent with the current democratic trends. We are talking about a ‘New Gambia’, and this must not be mere rhetoric. It must be true in every way. We do not want that system of political cronyism or cultism in our nation any more.
The other concern I have regards the fact that in the past the Committees of the National Assembly which were supposed to keep government departments in check used to depend on those very departments to travel around, investigate and audit those departments. Mr President, even a person as ignorant of the workings of a government as I am, knows that this type of monitoring or auditing cannot work effectively. If Mr X has to give you fuel and allowance to come and see if he is doing his work or not, you can’t be objective. As such, the National Assembly as a whole and its various committees have to be fully equipped in every sense of the word in order to maintain their independence to do their oversight work effectively and efficiently. This will not be – should not be – kindness from anybody. We have given them a job of oversight and should give them the tools to do that work.
Have a good day Mr President.