President Barrow strikes the right tone, but…

President Barrow

By: Basidia M Drammeh

After President Adama Barrow had sworn in his long-awaited Cabinet, he delivered a powerful speech that encapsulated the aspirations of his government and pinpointed its direction in the next five years.

Among all the issues that the President touched upon in his speech, his call on members of his Cabinet to take a zero stance on corruption stood out for me.

President Barrow is routinely criticized for his lax attitude towards fighting and uprooting rampant corruption in the country, suggesting – as some would argue- his unwillingness or reluctance to combat graft.

The country has been recently hit bya slew of corruption scandals, including the latest Auditor General’s report, which revealed that the government made withdrawals amounting to D669 million without the approval of the Accountant General from the so-called special security accounts. The accounts were reportedly opened by the former regime of Yahya Jammeh. When the new Barrow administration took over, the accounts were closed but one was later reopened.

Following the report’s release, the government went on the defensive, casting doubt over the genuineness of the report and those behind it.

In an interview with the Standard newspaper published on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, the Auditor General noted that his office was never aware of the existence of the infamous account, adding that only the accounts known to them get audited. “The people who benefitted from the payments are not the problem but the people who opened the account. They could have paid me myself from that account and I would not know. So that is the issue.” The uncompromising Auditor General fired back.

In the same vein, Alkamba Times unraveled last February, a bribery scandal at the Central Bank of the Gambia, alleging that the top national bank was involved in a bribery case amounting to eleven million and one hundred thousand dalasi (D11.1million).

Gambia’s ranking on corruption is seemingly far below expectations. According to Transparency International’s (TI) latest ranking of the world’s most corrupt countries, The Gambia has been listed as No. 102; and only better than ten countries in Africa, reported the Point newspaper.

The long-awaited anti-corruption bill should be deliberated and passed by the new Parliament with utmost urgency and immediacy. After all, the cost of corruption is hefty and is unfortunately paid by the impoverished members of society.

While the President’s statement should be applauded and viewed as a step in the right direction, concrete actions must be taken at all levels of government to match his rhetoric. In other words, the President struck the right tone, but as they say, the proof is in the pudding.

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