To: His Excellency, Mr. Adama Barrow , President of the Republic.
SUBJECT: Creation of an Anti-Corruption Agency To Comply With The UN Convention Against Corruption
We are very much appreciative of your new government’s efforts reaching out to our development partners such as the EU, ADB, and other international development agencies to assist in the development of the new Gambia especially in the aftermath of a massive emptying of the state coffers by the rapacity of a mercurial dictator who ruled the country with rampant greed and corruption.
In fact the level of corruption during the 22 years of the worst kleptocrat in modern times made Gambia one of the most corrupt countries worldwide. Gambia is ranked 145 out of 175 countries, according to the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International. Senegal our neighbor is placed at 64, Ghana 70, Sierra Leone 123 and Jammeh’s adopted country-Equatorial Guinea- is 165. No wonder one of Africa’s most corrupt president would prefer to go into exile to one of the most corrupt countries throughout the world.
The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)
The United Nation Convention Against Corruption came into force in 2005 and had been ratified by more than 155 countries, more than two-third of UN member states. Gambia ratified the Convention over 12 years ago, since then the erstwhile government of Yaya Jammeh adamantly refused to establish an anti-corruption agency in line with the dictates of the Convention which obliges states to prevent and criminalize corruption, and establish anti-corruption bodies.
The ex-president was not keen on curbing corruption instead he was overseeing a criminal enterprise where drug dealing, money laundering, cruelty, decadence, corruption, debauchery, the oppression of the people by the people, cannibalism, tax evasion and all evils are produced. In a nutshell his government was fraught with all sorts of crimes from human rights abuses, illegal imprisonment to white collar offences. The effects of widespread corruption and fiscal recklessness in the public service will continue to ripple through the economy for years to come.
Systemic corruption in the public enterprises
Development depends on good governance. There are today more loss-making public enterprises than those that ever existed during the first Republic because of the high level of abuse and prolonged mismanagement of the finances of the public enterprises which turned the operations of many successful PEs into loss-making thus weakening its institutional and governance framework and exerting pressures on the nation’s debt situation.
The best evidence of corruption in the state owned enterprises is the tsunami of abnormality in the running of the PEs and the unending interference in the form of presidential directives ordering the awarding of contracts to companies preferred by the ex-President, employment of certain employees and payments of huge ‘unusual’ items that have nothing to do with the normal operations of the enterprises.
Management of PEs transferred to the Office of the President
The functions of the Boards of many public enterprises were transferred to the office of the president to facilitate the misuse of the finances of the PEs through the issuance of endless presidential executive orders. This way nobody dares question the massive misappropriation of public funds that was being perpetrated with impunity. External auditors of PEs and members of the PAC/PEC committees have to turn a blind eye to the material misreporting of the financial statements of the affected enterprises.
Gamtel/ MGI agreement
An anti-corruption agency could be mandated to reactively scrutinize the past financial activities of all the affected public enterprises to determine the level of mismanagement for which someone must be made accountable. The special account opened at the Central Bank specifically for the Gamtel/MGI Gateway revenues would be exposed. It is believed that this was the account with a balance of $11 million which was emptied days before the ex-president forcefully left the country. Why a public enterprise like Gamtel should be allowed to operate an account at the Central Bank is anybody’s guess.
GRA tax revenues paid to commercial banks
Any ruler who uses their power to steal their country’s resource is a kleptocrat and throughout the 22-year of Yaya Jammeh’s abusive rule there have been series of fraudulent financial moves that warranted separate audits to properly ascertain the huge losses his actions had caused the state to lose.
Controversy still surrounds the move to transfer GRA’s tax revenues to the commercial banks instead of paying them directly at the Central Bank in conformity with government financial regulations. What is stopping these banks to use the GRA moneys and give them as loans to government in the form of T/Bills?
GCCA’s Airport Development Levy Paid to GTBank in 2002
A similar arrangement was made with Guaranty Trust Bank in 2002 with the GCCA’s Airport Development Levy fees. The GTBank was given exclusivity to collect all the Airport Development fees which was in charge in foreign currencies at the time. It is these types of arrangements of diverting funds that belongs to the public which must be investigated by your new administration and what better way to do it than to mandate an anti-corruption agency to look into all these allegation of financial fraud.
GRA and Yaya Jammeh’s taxes?
As the ex-president was engaged in all sorts of businesses, there is general suspicious that he was not honoring his tax liabilities with the GRA and if this is the case, then why officials of the revenue authority were not fulfilling their role to collect the required taxes from the plethora of the businesses owned by Jammeh. To name a few KFF, KGI, The Observer Company, Kanilai Bakery, Muslim Butchers, MaliGam and many more that others can confirm. This assignment could be high on the agenda of any anti- corruption commission. Gambians want to have back what belongs to the people.
Private businesses still owing government debts
There are many companies, hotels and businesses that owed millions of dalasi in unpaid back-taxes from the previous government and are in collusion with some government officials, to privately write-off their debts. Some have been giving back their properties /assets without settling the debts owing to the previous government. This needs to be addressed immediately as it is unfair to allow these rich people to escape without refunding their debts when the under privileged are being taken to court for unpaid debts.
In conclusion, our economy is in intensive care due to perennial mismanagement of the country’s finances. Establishing an anti-corruption agency to look into the past financial improprieties of the previous government would be good for our new democracy and will reinforce governance framework for public enterprises refocusing service delivery and putting national interest first.
A Truth and Reconciliation Commission will be an appropriate response to determine the atrocities, unlawful detention, torture, disappearances of people who were the victims during the two decades of Jammeh’s iron clad rule. The establishment of an anti-corruption agency would be a vehicle to stamp out the last vestiges of endemic corruption left behind by one of Africa’s most corrupt dictator whose wealth is suspected to surpass the size of our nation’s GDP. It would also demonstrate to our international partners that we are ready to establish a clean, credible, accountable and transparent government.
Thank you Mr. President. May God Bless the Gambia!
By: MBO Gaye