(JollofNews) – It has been announced that our Chief Servant Adama Barrow is going on a countrywide tour from March 23. The government press release said the purpose of the tour is to thank Gambian people for voting for him and to campaign for the Coalition candidates in the April 6 National Assembly election. For that matter, it is important to highlight issues with this tour to ensure transparency and accountability.
In the first place, Section 225 subsection 15 said the president should make at least two country tours “in order to familiarize himself or herself with current conditions and the effect of government policies”. From this constitutional provision it is clear that this particular tour is not in fulfillment of that provision. This is because Barrow has not formulated and implemented any policy yet. Secondly he has spent only 65 days in office, which is not adequate to assess the impact of his government. Hence this is not an official presidential countrywide tour and the press release did not make any reference to this provision.
This makes this tour a partisan political tour which, of course the president as a politician can make especially in times of election to campaign for himself or his party. This is allowed in a democracy. But because this is not an official activity therefore the government cannot carry the funding of this activity. This is where we now need to see the kind of leadership that Barrow will provide.
It is clear that the Coalition parties, individually and collectively had lamented severely about the electoral malpractices of Yaya Jammeh, which led them to engage in boycotts and petitions and court cases. Now they are in power and therefore the ball is now in their court. This is when the Coalition Government will show us whether they are genuine and honest leaders or they are no different from Yaya Jammeh.
Thus this is what I want to tell Pres. Barrow and his Coalition Government. In the first place, this tour should be funded by their Coalition and not by the Gambia Government.
The only expenses that the State can incur would be the personal security, accommodation, feeding and perdiem of the president. For that matter, he should go with only a small number of staffs such as his security detail, communications and some policy officers. This number must be small because they also have phone and Internet facilities such that he can still maintain communications with State House. The Gambia is a small country which means an officer who needs to consult with the president can drive back and forth from Banjul within one day just to make sure state functions continue to be executed. Thus the expenses of the president and his personal staffs must be funded by the state.
I do not expect any service chiefs, permanent secretaries, lawmakers, policy officials and a host of other government functionaries to be in this tour. This means the Coalition ministers who are on this tour must pay for their own expenses. They must not carry any ministerial staffs with them during this tour.
There should no government vehicles carrying supporters of their parties in the Coalition. No police or army trucks or government vehicles should be used. The ministers who are politicians must use their own personal or party vehicles and their own drivers. State drivers must not be in this tour. No perdiems must be paid to the ministers.
School children must not be asked to line-up the streets to welcome the president. Schools must not be interrupted as Yaya Jammeh used to do. Local government offices must not close their offices. Their office premises must not be venues for partisan political meetings or the mobilization of supporters as Yankuba Colley and governors used to do at KMC and Area Councils. No Area Council or mayor or governor should hire bunch of Gelegele vehicles for the tour. They should also not buy and share ashobi for party supporters. Local government officers have no business in the rallies of the president with communities. Local government officials are public officers and they must not engage in partisan politics. If the president wants, he can meet them in their offices for official talk.
The Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly should pay attention in reviewing the next government accounts to ensure that there are no expenses related to this tour paid by the government except for the president and his tiny staffs. If such payments are made, the PAC must ask for refunds from the affected persons. Heads of public institutions and public officers who are asked to provided public resources for this activity must refuse to do so and be prepared to go to court for any reprisal.
To ensure greater transparency I call on citizens to get their phones, cameras and videos ready to take pictures of where they see public resources being used for partisan activities to share with the country. We have to start to defend the supreme interests of the Gambia. We must insist on true democracy and good governance. The president and his government must be severely scrutinized and held to account to ensure they provide the right leadership at all times. This is for our security and survival in freedom and dignity.
God Bless The Gambia.
By Madi Jobarteh