The Case for a Permanent anti-Corruption Commission

On a recent post on ‘visionary leadership’, a deliberate attempt that was to provoke debate on certain sets of core values required in a leader. Throughout history, ethics, integrity & skill has come to define great lives & legacy of noteworthy figures who left indelible marks on the world. A look through the serpent of history and the illustrious men and women who decorate it finds, afflictions of pain & adversity; but through perseverance, patience and wisdom, success came to define them. A great leader must be disciplined (rules, regulations, skill) & principled (ethics, good, upright) if he or she is to administer a successful term.

For a country where money rules king with questions marks hanging over those running the show, a flawed democracy has ensued. Thing is, there is nothing more demoralizing, more destructive and more disempowering to citizens than the belief that the system is rigged against them.

To be clear, corruption is not a new problem in The Gambia. every nation has faced it one time or another. In the United States, the ‘founding fathers’ had warned about the dangers of corruption after the war of independence some two-hundred years ago. And as recent as 2015, former US Secretary of State, John Kerry, denounced Corruption as a social danger in that it ‘undermines whole communities and paralyses states.’ Corruption is a radicalizer, Kerry said, because it destroys faith in legitimate authority, honest accounting and turn entire budgets of nation states into a feeding trove for a privileged few.’

The impact of state corruption affects everyone but it’s ordinary folks who suffer most. Across Africa, corruption imperils opportunity for women and girls, investments in education and environment as funds meant for development programs are diverted to selfish and dishonest men. Yet we are left to wonder where donor cheques from Qatar and elsewhere amounting to millions meant for agricultural transformation disappeared to – for a tiny nation still unable to feed itself – fifty-three years later.

We can also spot the symptoms of a government that lacks trust – widespread corruption, nepotism, and patronage. To ensure of active citizens and responsible leaders, trust in government is critical to build and maintain a healthy society. We should join hand-in-hand with like-minded Gambians inspire a new generation that’s effective, trustworthy; laying the foundations for a future where governments know that public service is an honor, and that all powerful people must earn – and keep – the trust of those they seek to lead – lack of that is at the core of all these problems.

If the Barrow government wishes to be taken seriously, the administration has to make fighting corruption a first order national security priority. You have to wonder why he does not mention ‘corruption’ much since assuming power – coincidence or else – you do the math!

In all of our history as a country, in fact continent – greed and lust for power manifest in dishonest leaders has left us, but fragile governments. Today, the rise of social media has allowed Gambians to access & exchange information freely on executive excess – ahem per diems – exploiting the country’s meagre resources in the name of ‘national interest’ – shameless.

The impact of corruption is the cause of much underdevelopment in the Gambia, dilapidated gov’t buildings, unqualified infrastructure, poor sanitation & contaminated water supply putting lives at risk. In rural Gambia, you witness villages stuck in time – 1965 – no water supply, no electricity, no post office, no tarmac road, no school, health post or brick house. But if we are all Gambians with equal stake in the cake – explain to me why they have to die on donkey carts transporting the sick and pregnant women seeking distant health facility – while president fly private jet oblivious to these sufferings. And who is speaking for the farmers with trade season upon us? In Burundi, as well as Togo respectively, we saw citizens rise to demonstrate against kleptocratic rule. In Iraq, inquiry unearths over fifty-thousand soldiers on the payroll that don’t exist, costing $35 million to corruption. In Buhari’s Nigeria, millions of dollars in military spending is lost to dodgy ‘Generals’. Even more shocking, fifty people, including gov’t officials are found to stole $9 billion – Nigeria continues to disappoint, despite vast oil wealth.

For us in The Gambia – a country that is the envy of the region and world in terms of tolerance, cohesion – indispensable for peace – we should aspire to governance by consensus rather than tribal bigotry. Politicians must stop the partisan, tribal divide & return to moral order – put principle before party!!!

Tough choices will have to be made in an effort to build a strong, inclusive and accountable society. Although democracy begins with a peacefully elected gov’t, it does not end there. Citizens should to be active check on what the gov’t does matches what it says. Another area of major concern is the procurement industry (GPPA), with regards to govt contracts, medicinal imports in particular. It was brought to attention that officials in the health dept. collude to make millions out of the public oblivious to imports into the country. As a matter of urgency, medicine/drugs imports from Nigeria/India/China should be halted, fear of counterfeits. There are huge scams by very selfish people therein – And we wonder why illness/diseases are on a rampage for an unwell population saddled with high bills.

In case his handlers tell him otherwise, public confidence is at an all-time low in president Barrow’s leadership. Internal party squabbles, corruption scandals have plaque his time in office. Because the administration has appointed people with little or no skill to sensitive positions without subjected to proper recruitment, assessment process as per civil service guidelines.

I call on parliament to legislate an ‘Independent anti-corruption commission’ as a matter of urgency, to wage war against official graft & those who appoint their family members in positions of public trust without the due process. For decades nepotism has denied qualified Gambians from posts never advertised through a competitive recruitment process – that has to change, if a competent civil service is the desire.

Last year, Transparency international estimate approximately 2.6 trillion dollars is lost to corruption every year. Imagine what that could do, end poverty for a start. Corruption creates tensions and instability, even the collapse of nation states. That should concern the Banjul government hence the objectives of the ‘NDP’ are risked if the trend continues. What can Africa learn from this – yet we wonder why our countries and continent is the laughing stock of the world.

The Gambia needs a robust civil society to highlight government failures, pinpoint them on the right direction. That calls for understanding, not to see the other as enemy. Salutations to #GambiaParticipates on its work engaging local communities across the country on the impact of corruption. I confer confidence on the ‘’Janneh commission’’ – the commissioners are said to be of high aptitude – one to hold judgement until such time the dust settles on its findings. Profound respect to parliament, especially, on lucid debates in recent sittings executing excellent work in the process of country. Encouraging more such cross-bench ‘collabo’ whenever issues of national interest are on the table.

Gibril Saine

P.S – The administration, thru parliament, should engage the UN country office tap into funds on ‘Universal Health Coverage’, so that every Gambian can have health insurance. It will reduce stress on the health sector, incomes too – as the UN reimburses gov’t full amount. A Gambian I.T solutions firm, Volo, is doing the contract for the gov’t of Senegal.

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