By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Gambia’s Auditor General (AG), Mr Karamba Touray told stakeholders at the launch of its Phase 1 Covid 19 Report that there is a general lack of accountability in almost all sectors of Government. The launching featured a series of Audit Reports published by the National Audit Office (NAO) including the much talked about D669 Million withdrawn in 2017 without approval.
Speaking at the stakeholder’s dialogue held at the New Metzy Hotel on 21st April 2022 delegates questioned the AG on the implementation of the Audit Report Recommendations and holding individuals accountable for defrauding the State. In response, AG Touray told stakeholders that “there is a general lack of accountability in almost all sectors. That is the major problem. How do we bring in accountability, I mean consequences for people’s actions? Most of the time there is a lack of consequences”.
The Gambia’s NAO is the supreme Audit Institution responsible for reporting to the National Assembly (NA) on how public funds have been used and accounted for by the Government of The Gambia. According to the NAO’s Summarised Financial Report for the Financial Year 2017 their “yearly audits on the government financial statements, provide the NA with facts and issues of finance management to take action on”.
However, according to the Auditor General, no visible actions and consequences are taken. It’s important to note that the NAO submits their report to the NA and the Inspector General of Police (IGP) who should act on the recommendations as implementation bodies. Another avenue is for the Executive to instruct the IGP and the Attorney General’s office to act on the recommendations from the Audit Reports.
One such Audit Report currently sitting at the NA and the Police is the 2017 National Audit Report which revealed that D669 million was withdrawn from the Special Security Accounts which were previously closed on their recommendation. According to the 2017 Report, the account was opened again with the same account name but with a different account number.
It can be recalled that Gainako published two articles on the NAO’s Covid 19 Phase 1 Report. The first publication noted that the Gambia’s Ministry of Health overpaid by D86 million when purchasing Turkish Medical Supplies including 10 ambulances and other medical supplies procured in April 2020.
The second Gainako publication on the Covid 19 Phase 1 Report reveals how evidence of receipts and issuance of fuel procured were not presented for D5,745,597 worth of fuel supplied by Gambia National Petroleum Company Ltd (GNPC) and Petro Gas Co. Ltd.
The third and most recent publication details that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was unable to account for 5,395 passports including 70 Diplomatic Passports issued by the President’s Office without supporting documents.
Only Consequences Will Confront Corruption
In total, the NAO has published six Audit Reports recently and these include;
- Audit of the Financial Statements of Government of The Gambia (GoTG) for the 2017 and 2018 financial years.
- Compliance Audit of COVID-19 Response (Phase 1): Procurement and Distribution of Food and Medical items within the Greater Banjul Area.
- Performance Audit on Cargo Handling by the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA).
- Performance Audit on the Provision of Farm Inputs by the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA).
- Follow-Up Audit on the Storage and Distribution of Drugs by the Central Medical Services (CMS).
- Performance Audit on Emergency Obstetric Care provided at Public Health Facilities by Ministry of Health.
According to the Ministry of Finance’s January to December 2021 Expenditure Brief, the NAO underspent last year. Although the NAO’s approved expenditure (Government Local Fund) was D128.2 million in 2021 the NAO only spent D82 million last year, meaning that it spent 64% of its appropriated amount.
While the reports continue to be published the general public has also been asking why there are no actions taken from the Recommendations. AG Touray shared similar views when he said “although we have our recommendations which says if you do A there will be B most of the time this is never implemented that is essentially the problem”.
Responding to a query from an Academic Scholar on the NAO’s apparent focus on the media and civil society, AG Touray responded to say “CepRass says we’re talking about media, media, media, because we want these things to be exposed. The general feeling is that almost all these things are done in secrecy but once you expose them bring them into light public opinion will sweep them away”.
“We want to work with Civil Society to put pressure on the NA, particularly the Finance and Public Accounts Committee. Like we said we have in our plans to work with them closely going forward” said Mr Touray.
According to AG Touray, the NAO intends to help Parliamentarians “to add more teeth to whatever they are doing at the NA, particularly in the implementation of our recommendations. Once you do and there is consequences am sure this thing will fade away”.