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Friday, January 22, 2021

Ya-Kumba defends D54 million Assembly loan scheme

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By Tabora Bojang

Nominated National Assembly Member, Ya-Kumba Jaiteh has said she has no regrets in tabling the controversial D54 million loan proposal that NAMs and the entire Assembly staff could access to build houses and buy cars.

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The proposal was tabled on Friday, and has since been widely condemned by the public.

But defending her proposal in an interview with The Standard, Jaiteh who is also a lawyer, said: “I do not agree to doing things under the carpet. Whatever I do, I am honest and frank. If people don’t like it, they are entitled to their opinion. I am a public figure, they can criticise but I do not regret the decision and I stand by it and I think it is a proper way of alleviating corruption.

We saw what happened with NAMs taking money from the president when they have the powers to allocate these things to themselves and be paid enough so they don’t need to be corrupted by any individual. But because of the public backlash, NAMs shy away from these things. So I took it upon myself to propose it and I can take the backlash.”

According to her, the scheme would provide loans of D800, 000 to each person and will not only be restricted to lawmakers but the entire National Assembly since the lands were allocated to all the staff.

Hon. Jaiteh further argued that it is no crime to allocate loans for parliamentarians, when these schemes are allocated to all civil servants and by extension, the staff of the public enterprises and the public services.

She explained that loan “schemes have been in parliament for ever, but they have never really officialised it” citing that in 1998, lawmakers were given D50, 000 to buy cars but they could not afford it with that amount, and instead it was Baba Jobe, the former majority leader who offered D100,000 to each member.

“But all those lawmakers who took the money, were followed and had their names taken when Baba Jobe was arrested. Is that not corruption? How can your fellow MP offer you a loan of D100,000?  Why not the institution creating a proper loan scheme to help parliamentarians to buy cars or build houses? So this loan scheme for the National Assembly will be an opportunity for the next parliament to retain people of high standing in society that can actually do the job,” Hon Jaiteh said.

Asked about the collaterals, she stated that all NAMs are entitled to a gratuity at the end of their terms which is going to be used by the state to pay off the loans.

“So the question of whether we can pay or not does not even stand. There cannot be a default in the repayment of the loan because members would be clearly paid their gratuity at the end of their terms,” Jaiteh added.

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