Mining data is as difficult in the Gambia as mining gold in
a war field. Freedom of information is a fundamental human right and the
benchmark of all freedoms to which the United Nations is sanctified. One of the
main reasons why Gambians supported the coalition was due to the agonizing
political environment they found themselves in and the lack of freedom of
speech as a result of an autocratic government.
Gambia Participates over the past 20 months has been
embarking on their “Follow The Money” initiative thus serving as a watchdog
organization on government spending. The initiative amasses public data to
ensure projects meant for rural communities in the areas of agriculture, basic
education, health and access to portable drinking water are clearly sighted.
Much to a surprise, Gambia is still known for incarcerating information.
Since 2017, out of the many public inquiry letters sent to
Ministries, only one institution was able to provide Gambia Participates a
detailed breakdown of how they used project grants meant for a particular rural
community. When governments restrict information, they are creating an
atmosphere where corruption breathes thus limiting accountability.
In order to frustrate the occurrence of corruption, ensuring
public wealth are well managed and judiciously channeled to the last household
in rural Gambia, the government must open its books to the public as any
democratic government that lacks transparency in its operation is kleptocratic.
The rate of corruption outrages in the Gambia is spreading like bush fire in
the harmattan, thus casting shadow over the credibility of the government
delivering the expectation of its citizens. The dodgy Semlex contract, the
transfer of D35 million to Fatoumatta Bah Barrow Foundation (wife of the
president) and the alleged bribing of parliamentarians by the President and among
others are to be name. Millions of dollars have been injected in the
agricultural, education and health sector, however, the investigations of
Follow The Money in grass root communities has left mouths wide open.
The mongering of corruption within the public sector will
keep gushing from citizens as far as government continues to obnubilate public
information. Freedom of information and freedom of expression may however be
restricted in limited cases. These are cases where enjoyment of such rights threatens
It is important to acknowledge that the government of the
Gambia has started working on an Anti-Corruption Commission that will deter the
prevalence of corruption, investigate public sector corruption and ensure an
opened accountability process.
Gambia has received $1.7bn from the international donor
community as part of supporting the country to successfully implement the
National development Plan (N.D.P), this coupled with the recent commencement of
oil drilling. Be that as it may, this is the precise moment for the
anti-corruption bill to be discussed in parliament and equally supported by
parliamentarians in expediting the process of the bill to be enacted. If
effective, the anti-corruption commission will prevent the occurrence of public
sector corruption, thus enhancing public service delivery and reduce the high
poverty rate in the Gambia.
We have been advocating for the legislation of the Access to
Information law that will allow journalists, anti-corruption bodies and individuals
to request for public information. When legislated, this will create little/no
space for bureaucratic corruption to occur and public officials will gaze the
floor before taking a step. The Parliament must not wait on the executive to
recommend this bill; they could actually sponsor the bill and pass it before
assembly for it to be enacted.
In conclusion, we call on the government to be more
transparent in the way they manage public wealth, especially grants meant for
rural communities. Citizens have their priorities (mainly: health, education,
agriculture, employment, water and electricity) and the government must not
overlook these priorities. We at Follow The Money will continue to better the
lives of rural communities through promoting social accountability, we call on
Gambians to join hands in protecting the resources of the country and hold
their elected officials to account.
By: Marr Nyang
Founder/ Executive Director