Friday, September 20, 2013

Get your act together, Mr. Secretary General

The new Secretary General and Minister of Presidential Affairs was out at the Kunta Kinteh Hotel in Albreda this week with National Assembly members of the Public Accounts (PAC) and Public Enterprise Committees (PEC).  The occasion was the opening of the annual jamboree of the PEC and PAC billed as the pre-session retreat in readiness for the opening of the new Session of Parliament.

This year's parliamentary session is of particular interest because the Supplementary Budget of 2013 that is expected to be submitted by the Minister of Finance given the rising criticism of the huge deficit that government continues to rack up despite warnings from the IMF and development partners.  Last year over D 400 million was requested three-months before the end of the financial year to finance the deficit, with 25% of this amount going to the Office of The President for such things as maintenance of the presidential plane and other dubious expenditures. 

Although we are not privy to the ensuing discussions at the conclave, what is safe to say is that in addition to discussing public account issues - the primary focus of these two committees - the message that the Secretary General brought from Jammeh to members was what to expect in the Supplementary Budget 2013. Jammeh expects that the additional monies he will be requesting should be approved without drama and publicity at a time when the country is experiencing its worst economic crisis in memory.  The exercise was handled poorly last year which brought into the limelight the presidential aircrafts that Gambian taxpayers are asked to pay for their operation and maintenance when they couldn't remember buying an aircraft or air crafts for Yaya Jammeh.  Who owns these aircrafts is still a relevant question taxpayers are asking, and which the government has refused to answer.  

The Secretary General opened his statement with a fallacy, that members of the National Assembly represent an arm of government that ensues peace, social justice and development.  He went on to selectively quote Dobbs by saying that the role of the national Assembly "dovetails well with the common dictum that the life of a man would be short, brutish and dangerous in the absence of the rule of law..." The full quote is less appealing but more apt, which described a state of war prior to a government structure in which life would be "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."  This depiction is closer to what obtains in Jammeh's Gambia than the one that the Secretary General was attempting to paint with a truncated version of Dobbs. 

Equally delusional and down-right laughable is his claim that under Jammeh the conducive environment has been created for the three branches of government to operate as intended by the Constitution.  In making such a spurious claim, the Secretary General is refusing to concede what has been universally accepted as truism - that Gambia is a dictatorship, and under such dispensation the three branches of government are meshed into one entity under the thumb of one man.  Legislative scrutiny is therefore not tolerated, and any legislator that votes against Jammeh will be expelled from his Party and the National Assembly.  To remind those currently serving who runs the show, Jammeh has expelled several sitting members of parliament in the past, and has expelled another one as recently as last month.  Therefore, any claim that deviates from these realities, especially from the Secretary General, deserves a public rebuke from Gambians.  

The governance environment in the Gambia is in such a deplorable state that the Secretary General is better off taking the advise of Mario Cuomo, former Governor of New York, that "you campaign in poetry but govern in prose."  In short, stop the rhetoric, and start governing responsibly.  Gambians are looking for a government that attracts investments (both foreign and domestic); that provides jobs; that provides basic services; that supports agricultural production; and that guarantees the fundamental rights and liberties of the individual.  Spewing irrelevant words that do not amount to much in the eyes of the ordinary citizenry is not only pointless but adds to the narrative that the Secretary General is inexperienced, insensitive and out of his depth.