Sunday, November 13, 2016

Is there a legal nightmare looming ahead?

A legal expert drew our attention to a possible nightmarish scenario where Honorable Adama Barrow wins the presidency but must rely on a potentially hostile APRC-dominated National Assembly to approve his 2017 Budget.

We know, the presidential elections will be held on the final month of the calendar which is also the end of the 2016 Fiscal Year when the National Assembly must debate and approve what would be the 2017 Budget Appropriations Bill for it to become law.

Even before we consider what the likely action of the National Assembly will be, let's look at where the budget process is at this stage and also to assume that Jammeh will relinquish power if defeated at the polls.  Let me hasten to add if he refuses, Gambians will be free to exercise all other options available to them.

it is common knowledge that budget implementation has not been the forte of the Jammeh regime and a notoriously undisciplined lot, fiscally speaking.  The IMF can attest to that.   But let us assume that the budget preparation guidelines under the Jawara administration have been scrupulously maintained - granted an unrealistic expectation - Call Letters would have already been issued by the Ministry of Finance to all Ministries and Departments back in July - August asking them to submit their estimates/request by September -/October.  By now Finance have all the numbers and have actually gone over them with the Ministries and Departments.

At this point in time of the budget process, the Finance Ministry must have gone over the numbers with the IMF, and to a limited extent, with the various development partners.  To cut a long story short, the numbers should be all but finalized by now.  But these are Jammeh numbers which will certainly not reflect the budget program priorities of the incoming administration.  It is conceivable that the new administration can quickly agree with the incoming cabinet members on a provisional budget that will see the new government through April or May.  This may be the easiest part of the problem.

A Cabinet Paper containing the budget provisions must be considered and approved by the incoming cabinet - an equally easy task -  before it is transformed into the 2017 (Provisional) Budget Appropriation Bill to be debated and approved by the National Assembly for it to become law.   There lies the nightmarish scenario where a potentially hostile National Assembly is expected to approve a budget that has been essentially put together, however provisional it is, by a Coalition of opposition parties that have successfully trounced Jammeh and the APRC that still controls the legislative branch of the government.

Without National Assembly approval, it will be illegal to spend a butut unless there is a legal pathway - a legal question that can only be answered by legal experts including the one who brought the problem up in the first place.

This is one more reason why it is necessary, prudent and the most cost effective way to hold the presidential and National Assembly elections on the same day.  The present alignment is fraught with dangers and therefore should be scrapped at the first opportunity.