OPINION: CORRUPTION IS AN OBSTACLE TO ACHIEVING NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN 2018/21

Friday, December 13, 2019

Anti Corruption Coalition (Gambia)

The Gambia National Development Plan (2018 – 2021) was adopted in January, 2018 by the Cabinet of HE Adama Barrow to create a system that delivers good governance and accountability, ensure social cohesion, national reconciliation and a revitalized and transformed economy for the wellbeing of all Gambians.

The National Development Plan (NDP) emphasises well-known challenges such as government measures to stabilize the economy, restore public confidence and strengthen democratic institutions, provide greater clarity and focus for government action, citizens’ engagement and provision of public service delivery to last-mile population and sustainable development.

This is in accordance with the national vision of an “integrated, prosperous and peaceful new Gambia” that is enshrined in the NDP. The National Development Plan also hopes to create an enabling environment for our private sector to thrive and for citizens to enjoy quality standard of living and access to basic services to enable them to lead decent and dignified lives. The national vision also emphasises stabilizing the economy, stimulating growth and transforming the economy.

However, The Gambia is among the most corrupt countries and the NDP does not have corruption and anticorruption provisions to promote integration of corruption analytical findings, integrity in public accounting and public financial management, strong oversight including holding duty bearers accountable,efficient transparency mechanisms including access to information, committed public servants with proven integrity, and guarantee inclusion of civil society in an open governance system. According to Transparency International - Corruption Perception Index (2018) and World Bank on Control of Corruption (2017), The Gambia scored below 50 percent (37) and score below 50 percent (-0.66) respectively.

These rankings confirm the depth and scale of Gambia’s problem with corruption. So, as Gambian companies find themselves trying to compete in deeply corrupt nation state and the citizens struggling daily to access unequitable public services, it’s understandable why the Barrow administration or others aspiring to one-day rule the country would be reluctant to establish anti-corruption measures or even dare to discuss their plansto mitigate corruption through analyses and implement anti corruption through mechanisms. As far we at the coalition are aware, none of the existing political parties have included corruption and anti corruption plans per se in their manifestoes

Moreover, local government and others within the establishments’ efforts to integrate corruption and anti corruption in the system have lagged. The Government of The Gambia is mandated within the provisions of the 1997 Constitution to establish institutions were necessary and it is also mandated by United Nations Convention Against Corruption, the AU Convention on Prevention of Corruption, and the ECOWAS Protocol on illicit financial flow, to promote and encourage the adoption of measures and actions by Gambia - as a signatory to the treaties -  to prevent, detect, sanction, and integrate corruption and anti corruption measures to mitigate corruption risk in all sectors of Gambian society. However, the Government of The Gambia have recently announced that the long-awaited “Anti Corruption Bill” will be tabled before the law makers before end of year 2019. The Anti Corruption Coalition hopes that as soon as the “Bill” is tabled and passed into law, the administration of President Barrow will also take immediate steps to table much longer anticipated “Access to Information Bill” and then also should by then start training competent and committed technical staff to be charged with monitoring and implementing corruption and anti corruption procedures.

Although the Government of The Gambia declared its intension to start doing something about the “Anti-Corruption Bill”, there haven’t been any serious procedures taken to take immediate steps to promote integration of corruption and anti corruption measures needed to prepare the grounds for building strong institutions through anti corruption oriented policies that should facilitate the implementation of the “Anti Corruption Bill” when and if it becomes law.

Because the political will to kick start integration processes of corruption and anti corruption into the existing system seems lacking, many Gambia institutions, the private sector and civil societies that are key players in any corruption risk management have not put serious corruption and anti-corruption efforts on the ongoing “National Policy Reform”.

The Gambia NDP absolutely requires transformation of the very functions of dozens different jobs within the establishment and the private sector to promote corruption analyses and anti-corruption mechanisms applications such as compliance audit, and performance audit to beef up the existing National Audit efforts among others.

In Gambia as it is in several African countries the public service and the private sector simply do not have departments or positions to understand corruption analyses and anti corruption mechanisms and to promote commitment of public servants and business communities in provision of equitable access to public service.

Until now, the NDP is an excellent document that could boost transformation of the national economy, stimulate growth and encourage participation of the citizens. But it will be hampered by lack of proper corruption analyses and effective and efficient anti corruption mechanisms well implemented by a committed public servant if government do not take measures to begin integration of corruption and anti corruption policies at all levels of the establishment.

It is up to the Government of The Gambia to integrate robust corruption and anti-corruption provisions in all the policy reform process and improve how it monitors its institutions for the NDP to truly succeed. 

Author: Michael O. Davies, Coordinating Secretary,