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Parliamentarians must be accountable - Speaker

Aug 6, 2010, 2:42 PM | Article By: Lamin Darboe

National Assembly Speaker Elizabeth F.Y. Renner has stressed the need for parliamentarians to make themselves accountable to the electorate.

This should not only be done through the regular scheduled public elections, but through proactively holding meetings with the people they represent, she pointed out.

Hon. Renner was speaking on Wednesday in Tendaba Lower River Region during the start of a three-day regional outreach forum for members of the National Assembly.

The forum was convened under the theme: "Honourable Member's Representative and Oversight Functions Under Social Audit."

The outreach forum brought together National Assembly members from the North Bank and Lower River regions, with representatives of the electorate, media, civil society, local government authorities and local authority representatives.

The Speaker in her statement spoke of the Gambian National Assembly gaining over other national parliaments by instituting and nurturing this best practice of giving the electorate, media, civil society, local government authorities and traditional rulers the opportunity to discuss data with their elected representatives.

This, she went on, would provide avenues for stock-taking, and for recommendations to be made on the way forward.

The Speaker stated that the goals for the National Assembly are not only legitimate and lawful, but necessary to further develop the country's democracy.

According to Hon. Renner, this is the first of a series of the regional outreach forums for NAMs to collectively submit themselves to not only social audits, but the electorate at the grassroots level.

This outreach is for the electorates and grassroots representatives from LRR and NBR, she explained, adding that her office is planning to convene a similar forum for representatives of the electorate and grassroots in the Western Region, Kanifing Municipality and Banjul in October 2010.

According to the Speaker, in early 2011, her office would proceed to the Central River Region and Upper River Region for a similar forum.

She considered it necessary to improve on what she inherited by accessing and evaluating the impact of and limitations of the old strategy, she said.

The National Assembly as the legislative arm of the government, the supreme law making body and the highest oversight body over all public services, institutions, agencies and policy programs of the executives has a statutory role, the Speaker continued.

"Therefore, it is an obligation to regularly submit itself and its members to social audits by the electorate, the media and the civil society," she declared.

The Minister for National Assembly Matters, Lamin Kaba Bajo, said the forum is of particular significance and relevance, as it brought together the nation legislators, local government authorities and representatives of the electorate at the grassroots to discuss issues of accountability.

Other speakers at the forum included the Governors for Lower River and North Band regions, Lamin Waa Juwara and Edwarr Seckan respectively, and a representative of the UNDP resident representative, Basiru Gaba Jahumpa.