By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_Y
The Gambia’s National Assembly have passed a motion to commit the Anti-Corruption Bill, 2019 (ACB) to the Reconsideration Stage on the day it was expected to be passed after its Third Reading on 20th September 2023. After the Chair of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) moved a motion for clause 76 on Prosecution of Offenses to be revised the Bill was committed to Parliament’s Assembly Business Committee (ABC) to reschedule it for a review. A number of other clauses were also recommended to be reviewed; however, some were rejected while others were approved for reconsideration.
Prosecution of Offences to be Reviewed – Clause 76
It all started just before the Hon Minister for Public Service was given the chance to deliver the Third Reading of the ACB. The Chair of the FPAC, Hon Alhagie S Darbo, moved a motion under Standing Order 53 (k) motion without notice and Standing Order 74 under amendments to Bills after the consideration stage: Reconsideration stage, to strengthen the independence of the Commission.
Currently, clause 76 of the ACB demands that the Commission “shall seek the consent” of the Attorney-General to pursue any prosecution for an offence under the ACB. FPAC Chair Hon Darbo, who is the member for Brikama North argued for this section to be amended to state that the Commission “may consult” the Attorney General and thereby have the authority to pursue prosecutions without the Attorney General’s consent.
However, the Speaker of the House, Hon Fabakary Tombong Jatta warned “Hon member it looks like there are two sides to the coin. First if an amendment is to be done it means the Bill will not be ratified this session”. The motion was eventually seconded and voted in favour.
After some extensive debate, it was eventually agreed that members would have to present any amendment for reconsideration at the session and no other amendments would be reconsidered. The procedure was for Hon members to rise and table a motion and after it was seconded, the motion was voted on. Countermotions were not entertained.
Illicit Enrichment Will Not Be Reintroduced – Clause 37
Following the Speaker’s ruling, the member for Kiang West, Hon Lamin Ceesay raised a motion to reintroduce clause 37 on Illicit Enrichment which was removed from the Bill. This clause demands that “a person who being or having been a public officer is in possession of unexplained wealth, through him or herself or another person; (a) maintains a standard of living above that which is commensurate with his present or past official emoluments: or (b) is in control of pecuniary resources or property disproportionate to his or her present or past official emolument, unless he or she gives a satisfactory explanation as to how he or she was able to maintain such standard of living or how such pecuniary resources or property came under his or her control, commits an offence and is liable or conviction to a fine of three hundred thousand Dalasis or to imprisonment for seven years or to both”.
Hon Ceesay’s first attempt to move his motion was not seconded and voted on as expected. However, he managed to move his motion at the end of the session. Unfortunately, his motion was eventually voted down by the majority of the house after it was seconded by the member for Central Baddibou, Hon Sulayman Saho.
Undue Advantage to be Reviewed – Clause 2
The member for Old Yundum, Hon Abdoulie Ceesay argued for the interpretation of Undue Advantage to be removed and he was supported by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon Seedy SK Njie who argued that the interpretation and clause 68 of the ACB which also made mention of undue advantage should be reviewed as well. Hon Seedy Njie eventually amended his motion to request for the definition of clause 2 on undue advantage and anywhere else it appears to be reviewed. This was voted for in favour by the majority of the house after the member for Niamina West, Hon Birom Sowe seconded the motion.
Evidence of Custom or Convection Inadmissible Will Not Be Reintroduced – Clause 75
The second to last motion to be moved was by the member for Central Baddibou, Hon Sulayman Saho who recommended reintroducing clause 75 of the ACB which focuses on evidence of custom or convection deemed to be inadmissible by the courts. This clause states that “in proceedings under this Act, evidence shall not be admissible to show that any undue advantage mentioned in this act is customary in any profession. Trade, vocation or calling or on a social occasion”. After his motion was seconded by the member for Wuli East Hon Suwaibou Touray, the majority of the house voted against this clause being reintroduced in the ACB.