By Edrissa Jallow, @EdrissaJallow10
Parliament’s Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) held a briefing session with representatives of Ministries, Public Enterprises and Agencies on Tuesday 7th June 2022 warning them to submit their report or face sanctions and contempt of Parliament.
The meeting featured heads of Government Ministries such as the newly appointed Vice President Hon Alieu Badara Joof, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA) Hon Seedy Keita and the Minister of Interior Hon Seyaka Sonko to name a few. The main purpose of the briefing was to highlight the new policy direction of Parliament’s FPAC in relation to their operation and supervising role over Public Institutions.
Speaking to the Head of Government Institutions Vice-Chair Hon Alhagie Mbowe called on all institutions that have not submitted reports from 2016 to 2020 to make sure they “do whatever it takes to ensure that they are compliant because we [FPAC] cannot wait anymore”.
The Committee noted that they are empowered by Section 109, Subsection 3 of the 1997 Constitution with “the powers, rights and privileges as are vested in the High Court”. This gives them the authority to “enforce the attendance of witnesses”, “compelling production of documents” and even the “issue of a commission or request to examine witnesses abroad”.
Making reference to their briefing document for the meeting, Chairperson Hon Alhagie S. Darboe highlighted that “institution/officers shall submit both hard and soft copies of their annual activity reports and audited financial statements to the Office of the Clerk two weeks before the date set for scrutiny. Failure to do so will be considered to be in contempt of the committee and shall call for a reprimand whose nature will be defined by the committee”.
The Chairperson continued to warn all Heads of Institutions present that “all permanent Secretaries and Vote Controllers at Ministries and Departments should be present during the presentation and consideration, to answer questions and make clarifications”.
During the question-and-answer session, Chairperson Hon Darboe “indicated this time around at the end of the committee session that is June to July , the committee will be compiling its report and report to the plenary”.
Unlike other years “it will not be like accumulating our reports, anytime we end any session we are expected to report to the plenary, whatever has been reported from the respective institutions, exactly this is what we are going to report to the plenary” noted the Chair.
The FPAC Chair concluded by warning Heads of Institutions that “if you are found wanting, well your respective select committee and standing committees will be implementing duly the recommendations that are going to be made by the FPAC Committee”.
FPAC Demands MoFEA to Submit Budget Allocation of Each Institution
Vice-Chair Hon Mbowe instructed the MoFEA to clearly specify the budget allocations of each institution in the National Budget instead of a lump sum allocation. The committee raised this issue to ensure that they can carry out their functions to scrutinise the expenditure of each institution.
Hon Mbowe told Finance Minister Hon Seedy Keita that “when you are preparing the draft budget, and the budget as a whole once it’s approved, we want to see all the sub inventory institutions and their names captured, not bulked together as one”.
Explaining some of the challenges a bulk budget creates for Parliamentarians, Hon Mbowe highlighted that bulking all the institutions under one Budget Line “is going to be very difficult for the committees to know exactly how much was allocated to each of the institutions… So, we want to get that broken down by sub inventory institutions and by their name so that when we receive their budget from their own institution, then we will be able to reconcile and that’s also going to help the institution”.
Giving an example of what they expect going forward Hon Mbowe highlighted that the Ministry of Higher Education, Research Studies and Technology’s (MoHERST) budget should be broken down into Institutions which are under it such as the University of the Gambia, Gambia College and also feature the Ministry’s own Budget allocation such as development and recurrent expenditures for the MoHERST.
Another example from Hon Mbowe noted that the Ministry of Youth and Sport’s Budget allocation should be broken down into Institutions under it like NEDI, NYSS and NYC etc. For the MoFEA, Hon Mbowe instructed that their Budget should be broken down into GRA, SDF and any other Institutions under them.
About Parliament’s FPAC
According to section 95 of Parliaments’ Revised Standing Order, the FPAC is a Standing Committee of the National Assembly Member and their Powers are clearly spelt out in Section 98 of the Standing Orders which is identical to section 109, subsection 3 of the 1997 Constitution highlighted above.
According to Standing Order, 109 (not to be confused with the above Constitution Provision 109) FPAC has the duty “to examine the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by the Assembly to meet the public expenditure and such other accounts laid before the Assembly” amongst other powers.
The Chairperson for the FPAC is Minority Leader Hon Alhagie S Darboe of Brikama North while the Vice-Chairperson is Hon Alhagie Mbowe of Upper Saloum. Other members of the FPAC are the Deputy Speaker Hon Seedy SK Njie, Hon Fatoumatta Njai of Banjul South, Hon. Fatou Cham of Sanimentereng, Hon. Musa Cham of Serrekunda, Hon. Kebba Lang Fofana (Nominated), Hon. Kebba T Sanneh of Foni Jarrol and Hon. Sulayman Jammeh of Bundung Ka Kunda.