Politicians and commentators have differing perspectives on the swanky and exotic 2023 model Toyota Prado cars worth over D3.5 Million purchased for National Assembly members this week.
The development has sparked a major public debate over the price tag, half of which will be paid by the government through taxpayers’ money.
Speaking about the questions and concerns raised by many people, a political science lecturer and commentator at the University of The Gambia, Essa Njie, said the national assembly doesn’t need vehicles worth over 2.5 million dalasis when the country faces serious economic challenges and infrastructure.
Njie, a strong critic of the government, said that the parliament is not different from the Adama Barrow-led cabinet since they are all involved in wasting public resources.
“Parliamentarians don’t need vehicles more than 1 million dalasis; within five years, they can have vehicles that are way cheaper for five years rather than 2.6 million or more to purchase vehicles.
“It is rather unfortunate that our parliamentarians have nothing to think about. Instead of bringing progressive laws, our MPs are focused on how to drive luxurious cars and live an expensive life,” Njie noted.
However, according to the National Youth President of the United Democratic Party, Hagi Suwaneh, purchasing cars of that cost is a necessity that will help parliamentarians execute core functions in their constituencies.
“There is nothing wrong with buying these vehicles. They are needed, and it is a necessity. These vehicles will promote efficiency and effectiveness in delivering their functions in terms of mobility,” the UDP youth leader claimed.
He argued that the National Assembly members deserve cars of such worth despite the public outrage over the cost of the cars, which the government will partly finance through taxpayers’ money.
The People’s Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism’s (PDOIS) Suwaibou TOURAY, the National Assembly member for Wuli East, backed the acquisition of the vehicles, noting that National Assembly members require mobility in their constituencies.
Honorable Touray, who was among the members of the parliament that rejected pick-ups in 2017, said that the process followed in acquiring the cars is legal, unlike what happened in 2017 when President Adama Barrow failed to name a donor of cars given to the National Assembly members.
In his defense of the decision to get these cars, Suwaibou said:
“The National Assembly Members had budgeted the vehicles because we cannot have a National Assembly member who cannot move about their constituencies to perform oversight functions,” he explained.
Tukulor Sey, a Gambian woman agreed with PDOIS Suwaibou Touray.
“I agreed that each NAM should get a car to enable them to travel throughout their constituencies to reach the people who are voted to serve,” she argued.
She added that despite the cost of the vehicle, such types are needed considering the poor quality of roads in the country.
Ansumana Fatty, a student at the University of the Gambia, explained that the amount of money used in purchasing the 2023 Model Toyota Prado cars is a justification that the National Assembly members do not have any knowledge or care about the plight of Gambians.
He argued that the National Assembly members were trusted to serve the people’s interests but failed the electorates.
“We trusted them to be our beacon of hope for democracy and good governance, but they are failing us.
“The National Assembly should have been the most vibrant and proactive arm of our government, an assembly that will make the government work for the people, give voice to the voiceless, and ensure that there is fair and equitable distribution of resources, but it’s unfortunate that they are failing in all these domains.
Our parliamentarians, instead of representing the interest of their respective electorates, are busy advocating for their interests and paving ways to live in luxury,” Ansumana stressed.
Meanwhile, the office of the Clerk of the National Assembly released a press dispatch confirming that half of the cost of the purchased cars will pay by the taxpayers. The release further confirmed that NAMs would be responsible for fueling and maintaining the cars.
The new set of elected parliamentarians have approved the government’s plan to increase salaries of civil servants, demanded and received clothing allowances for themselves for a whopping 100 thousand dalasi, and have now purchased vehicles worth over D3.5 million for each National Assembly member.