By Arret Jatta and Yusef Taylor
Hon Fatoumata Njai the National Assembly Member for Banjul South expressed her dissatisfaction with the 2023 Executive Budget proposing Salary and Allowance increments for Parliamentarians and more Presidential Advisors. Much to the disapproval of Hon Gibbi Mballow of Lower Fulladu West.
According to the Parliamentarian who won her second term under an independent ticket, “the government does not love this country, they do not have the feeling to nurture our children in this country, Honorable speaker, D6 Billion dalasi in salaries alone not including the administrative costs that is not reasonable”.
Our research has revealed that the Gambia Government has spent a total of D4.1 Billion on Personnel Emoluments from January to September 2022 out of the total of D5.75 Billion approved in the 2022 Revised Budget. This means that the Government has spent 71% of the allocated amount on Personnel Emoluments. Personnel Emoluments include Basic Salaries, Allowances and other Staff Payments.
It can be recalled that the current Finance Minister, Hon Seedy Keita tabled the Revised Budget for 2022 on 29th July 2022 which Parliamentarians Approved. The 2022 Revised Budget provided for a 30% increase in all Civil Servants’ salaries. The Minister’s Statement noted that the salary increment amounted to D575 million.
A story by the Standard Newspaper highlights how the former Finance Minister, Hon Mambury Njie attempted to effect President Adama Barrow’s promise to increase the Salaries of Civil Servants by 50% since 2018 when he tabled the 2019 Budget. The proposal also aimed to increase Pensions by 100%. It’s not clear if this salary increase was ever affected prior to the 30% Salary increase effected by the 2022 Revised Budget in late July 2022.
A Voice Newspaper report details the debate for the 2022 Revised Budget and Hon Assan Touray of Bakau’s query on the sustainability of the salary increment and proposed that low-income earners should benefit from 50% salary increases, while high-income earners should not be afforded any salary increases.
However, the Salary Increase of 30% for all Civil Servants did not apply to Parliamentarians since they had Autonomy from the Government to decide their own Salaries. According to a leaked document, all Parliamentarians are proposed to receive a 30% salary increase with the Speaker to receive a 136.9% salary increase. See the chart below for more specific details.
Speaking on the duplication of roles Hon Njai highlighted that she has observed “new units, ICT, being established at the Office of the President. Why would he need another ICT?”
Shifting her attention to the number of Advisors which has consistently grown by the year Hon Njai questions: “why would His Excellency want six advisors? How many Ministers does he have in addition to the new Ministries? If the President is telling us that the Ministers are not good enough? I told this August Assembly here last year [that] if he is implying that his Ministers are not good let him sack them and appoint advisors”.
Referencing the Constitution Hon Njai highlighted that “according to the Constitution, Ministers should be competent enough to advise [the President] on any policy under their Ministry and if they are not good enough and if that is what he is implying that they are not good enough let him sack them and appoint advisors in that place. But as a poor country, we cannot be paying Ministers and be paying Advisors and be paying Deputy Advisors”.
“Once you are appointed as a Minister, before two months, you marry a second wife, you start buying homes abroad at the expense of the poor Gambians,” she said.
A look at the 2022 Budget Expenditure Report prepared by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA) highlights that from January to September 2022, D1.91 Billion has been spent on Basic Salaries with a further D1.95 Billion being spent on Allowances in the first 9 months.
In contrast, in 2021 salaries came up to D1.57 Billion with Allowances coming up to D1.51 Billion. The report notes that “basic Salary registered a growth rate of 22 per cent whilst allowances increased by 29 per cent; from D1.51 billion to D1.95 billion” in 2022.
However, Hon Gibi Mballow the National Assembly Member for Lower Fuladu West disagrees with Hon Njai’s statements and responded to say: “Mr Speaker we are going to marry a second wife because that is an obligation, let us not fake our Gambian people we don’t come here and protest that we are the best when underneath we have sentimental and grievances among ourselves”.
Hon Mballow opined that salary increment is necessary and that salaries have to increase across the board because the world is growing, livelihood is getting very expensive and every civil servant in this country is asking for a salary increment, therefore it will be increased.
Hon Fatoumata Njai insisted that “increasing our salary is deliberately enriching ourselves. I think as a National Assembly we should not accept any salary increment I gave myself for service I did not give myself for the poor people to feed me and my family” she said.
The statement was made at a National Assembly Sitting on the 2023 Executive Budget which took place in Banjul on Thursday 24th November 2020.