NHRC Urges Gov’t to Establish Anti-Corruption Commission and Uphold the Never Again Mantra

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By Edward Francis Dalliah

Celebrating five years of existence, citing numerous achievements on Thursday 23rd May 2024, the Gambia’s National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) took stock of steps taken by the government to fight corruption and urged the Executive to double up its efforts by taking “all necessary steps to enforce and implement the Anti-Corruption Act 2023”.

The Commission believes that corruption has a significant impact on human rights, “for example where resources are not wisely utilized or put into proper places, then that may eventually impact human rights”. Director of Legal and Investigation, Mr Mansour Jobe told delegates present.

According to the Transparency International Corruption Index 2023, The Gambia scored 37 points out of 100 ranking it as 98th out of 180 countries reflecting an improved ranking of 12 places compared to the previous year. In 2022, The Gambia was ranked 110th out of 180 countries with 34 points out of 100.

Corruption and human rights violations have been a huge burden on the Gambian population since the previous regime, as the Janneh Commission revealed “an unprecedented level of corruption and abuse of power and authority by [the] former President, his wife, family members and close associates with his full support”.

After coming into power in January 2017 President Adama Barrow’s Government established the Janneh Commission which investigated the regime of former President Yahya Jammeh and his close associates. The Janneh Commission unearthed the sheer magnitude of corruption that festered under the leadership of former President Jammeh where corruption was said to be centralised. However, in the current regime corruption is seen to be everyone’s business with Parliament passing three resolutions since 2022 and 2023 demanding various institutions account for or repay unaccounted funds, vehicles and much more.

Earlier this year, President Barrow pardoned the only government official, former Permanent Secretary for Fisheries, Dr Bamba Banja, who was convicted of corruption under his administration. This was met with condemnations from environmental advocates, civil society actors and anti-corruption advocates in the country.

President Barrow went one step further by revoking the ban on government officials recommended to be banned by the Janneh Commission, further eroding the work of the Janneh Commission. Worse still, President Barrow decided to recycle ‘corrupt government officials’ identified by the Janneh Commission when he decided to hire at least two persons in the name of Momodou Sabally as Special Advisor and Dr Njogou Bah as the Director of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority earlier in March 2024.

Another effort referred to by the NHRC was passing the Anti-Corruption Act in 2012 during former President Jammeh’s term. Even after passing the Act, it was never implemented or established because former President Jammeh never appointed Commissioners. After the Janneh Commission’s revelation, it’s clear that the former President and many of his allies were involved in gross corruption hence the reason for the non-establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Aiming to fight corruption in the country, the Minister of Justice tabled the Anti-Corruption Bill back in 2019 during the term of the Fifth Legislature. The Anti-Corruption Bill spent four years in Parliament before the Sixth Legislature eventually passed it in December 2023.

It’s important to note that the Access to Information Bill was tabled on the same day as the Anti-Corruption Bill but the former was passed by Parliament in 2021 and a Commission is set to be established in the coming months.

Similarly, with both Bills now passed as Acts, all that remains is for the Executive to recommend Commissioners to Parliament to establish the Anti-Corruption Commission who will then take charge of implementing the Anti-Corruption Act 2023.

Therefore, the NHRC sees the need for the government to take necessary actions in the “enforcement and implementation” of the Anti-Corruption Act and Commission which was never established in the former regime. Announcing that, they “perceive instances of corruption being [on the] increase in the public domain”.

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