By Saul Saidykhan
Twenty months into the ‘New Gambia’, we’re still bemoaning a paucity of resources, and looking for money from everywhere else in the world but our own front yard. We have a bonanza of ripe fruits that could be harvested to feed our hungry people and create job or business opportunities for our youth. Why this potential bounty is still being ignored beats me. Here is the scenario:
If I Sulayman Saidykhan walk into a bank in Gambia with a cheque, whip out an ID that says I’m Adama Barrow and consequently walk away with thousands of Dalasi –of public money, I have “obtained money by false pretense” which is a crime! Why? Because I’ve IMPERSONATED a man call Adama Barrow. This is an open and shut case because it’s a clear case of FRAUD!
Now why is this relevant to Gambia’s current plight?
The answer is simple and straight-forward. The MOST COMMON crime and largest source of theft in the Jammeh era was Certificate or Credential forgery. Literally, thousands of crooks got jobs through Certificate or Credential forgery for two decades. Legally, money acquired through fraud (be it salary, wages, or other emoluments) can and should be confiscated by the State. Even if we don’t send offenders to jail, we should at minimum, try and recover our money. Especially as the Gambian state LOST BILLIONS through such crookery. Why have we not started the process of recovering public money lost this way when we’re desperate to create a just, equitable, and livable country. We cannot create a ‘New Gambia’ when we send people the message that crime pays. There is a direct relationship between our meagre public coffers and the widespread credential fraud that went on for two decades.
How do we know someone has been receiving public money through fraud, impersonation or false pretense? Easy.
Every region or country in the modern world has an educational institution Accreditation Board or Agency. The Gambia falls under the West African Examinations Council (WAEC.) As far as I know, this board issues General Certificate of Education (GCE) Ordinary Level certificates, General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level, and West African Senior School Certificate (WASSC.) The common thing about ALL Accreditation Boards is the certificates they issue have UNIQUE Certificate or serial numbers. No two people are issued the same number – ever! So, if my brother takes my GCE Advanced Level certificate, changes my name to his, and gets a job, the ONLY people fooled are the employer! See, my brother can change my name to his, but he cannot change the certificate or serial number. In WAEC’s database, it will be my name – not my brother’s, that will be attached to the certificate!
If an employer does his/her due diligence, he or she will find that Certificate Number 578649 was issued to Sulayman Saidykhan in 198x not Karanbal Saidykhan in 199x. A simple cross-checking will uncover the truth!
As it is for WAEC, so is it for foreign colleges and universities. The magic of modern technology makes such verifications child’s play. It’s easy to verify anybody’s credentials within weeks.
Yet we have THOUSANDS who got away or are still getting away with this crime. I’m baffled by the government’s inaction on the issue. Why not try to recover BILLIONS of our STOLEN money through this fraud?
Here are two high profile cases I know of that could be the starting point of this recovery initiative:
First, the second-most powerful man in the Gambia for ten years goes by a false name -thanks to the fact that he borrowed someone else’s school certificate to enroll in the army. Everyone knows this in the army, yet this person rose to the zenith acquiring tens of millions of Dalasi in the process. He has two compounds off the airport road that I saw firsthand, and reportedly owns two others in Mbour – Senegal, where the wife with four kids he took from one poor fellow hails from.
Second, a man who never finished high school, took the WAEC certificate of one of his school mates and forged his name on it. Not only did he get several important jobs in government, he ended up as DG of the National Intelligence Agency -NIA for several years!
And there are Permanent Secretaries, Director Generals, Managing Directors, Directors, Managers, and other senior personnel still in both our security and civil services with forged credentials.
How hard is it for the Gambia government to ask WAEC for a list of ALL Gambian exam candidates for the various WAEC certificates and the results they obtained – from say 1980 to 2016? Matching the WAEC list with public Employee records at the PMO and Security/Defense HQ records will expose ALL the frauds on our public payroll.
How do we recover public money STOLEN through such fraud?
Even a first-year law student can give the government that answer. Keeping stolen property is right- morally or legally. The proceeds of a crime be it tangible property or otherwise, should be seized by government. The only question is: do we have the political will to do so? If there is the political will, the Gambia can recover BILLIONS lying in plain sight!
I’m just tired of telling some of Barrow’s advisers these things privately without seeing any action.