Human Rights News Opinion

The Government Must Take Responsibility for Corruption, not the Private Sector

Either the Minister of Finance, Seedy Keita, does not know the purpose of the Government, or he is just playing to the gallery when he made the unfortunate remark that Government and private sector do corruption together. By his statement, he has acknowledged that his Government is indeed corrupt which is an indication of his failure in particular because he is the man in charge of the finances of the nation. In that case one wonders why Seedy Keita should continue to keep his position when he has shown that not only is he incapable of fighting corruption, but he has also named his accomplices in defrauding the country without doing anything about that.

Secondly, what Seedy has shown is that he is either totally ignorant of the laws on corruption or he is merely seeking to impress the IMF, UNDP, and World Bank when he makes that misleading remark. For that matter, it is important to put it to Seedy Keita that corruption in any country is primarily the creation and fault of the Government, hence it is the Government that can also end corruption. This is because the Government has all the powers and tools to combat and eradicate corruption if it truly wants to do so. Let him ask the Minister of Justice Dawda Jallow for guidance on this issue if he does not know.

For his information, the Gambia has ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption since 8th July 2015. The Convention is an international law that places clear obligations on state parties such as the Gambia to address corruption. In the Convention, Section 12 deals with the private sector as to what state parties should do to stop them from corrupt practices.

“Each State Party shall take measures, in accordance with the fundamental principles of its domestic law, to prevent corruption involving the private sector, enhance accounting and auditing standards in the private sector and, where appropriate, provide effective, proportionate and dissuasive civil, administrative or criminal penalties for failure to comply with such measures.”

The Convention requires that state parties put in necessary laws and measures to prevent, detect, and punish bribery from local and international private sector operators, money laundering, illicit enrichment, among other corrupt practices. For that matter, it also calls for the protection of whistleblowers and creation of a code of conduct for public officials just to strengthen the fight against corruption. Is the Gambia Government doing that?

Similarly, the Gambia has also ratified the African Union Convention against Corruption since 9th July 2009. This Convention also prohibits not only money laundering, bribery, and illicit enrichment, but it also calls on African governments to prevent even political parties from using funds acquired through illegal and corrupt means.

On combating corruption in the private sector, the AU Convention states under Article 11 that each state party should put in place “legislative and other measures to prevent and combat acts of corruption and related offences committed in and by agents of the private sector.” For that matter it demands state parties to “establish mechanisms to encourage participation by the private sector in the fight against unfair competition, respect of the tender procedures and property rights.” The Convention therefore required that state parties take measures “to prevent companies from paying bribes to win tenders.”

If Minister Seedy Keita is aware of these regional and international laws to which the Gambia is a signatory, one wonders why did Seedy Keita say what he said in that forum? What is he doing to ensure that these laws and measures are in place and effectively enforced? Hence if the private sector is corrupt in the Gambia, it is thanks to the Gambia Government. The Government should take responsibility and not create a scapegoat.

If we go further to the country’s own Constitution, it is obvious that it is the duty of the State to fight and end corruption and not to cry over it. This is because the Constitution has set out the code of conduct for public officials under Section 222 which if they abide by, surely there will be no room for the private sector to bribe public officials.

Section 222 states in subjection 9 that,

“A public officer shall not ask for or accept any property or benefits of any kind for himself or herself or any other person on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him or her in the course of his or her duties. The receipt of any gift or benefit from or on behalf of a commercial firm, business enterprise or a person having or negotiating a contract with the Government shall be deemed to be in contravention of this paragraph unless the contrary is established.”

Can we ask Seedy Keita whether his Government has ever looked at this subsection and indeed act accordingly? Has his Ministry and the Government ever prevented, detected and punished any public official for taking a bride? Because if the private sector is giving bribes to get contracts such as Semlex, Securiport, Banjul Road Project and the numerous road construction projects going on across the country, surely, they give those bribes to public officials. We know that those contracts were indeed approved and signed by the President and his Ministers?

Furthermore, Section 223 of the Constitution deals with declaration of assets by public officials, It says under subsection 1 that,

“A public officer to whom this section applies shall submit to the Ombudsman a written declaration of all property and assets owned by him or her, and of liabilities owed by him or her, whether directly or indirectly,
1. within six months of the coming into force of this Constitution;
2. at the end of every two years;
3. on ceasing to hold public office.

Can the Minister of Finance tell us if this constitutional provision is indeed being enforced? If so, where is the assets declaration report? Has the Minister himself declared his own assets and liabilities before assuming his position? If not, then Minister Seedy Keita is only encouraging corruption in total violation of the Constitution. I challenge him to clarify.

Finally, this country has an Oaths Act which requires the President, Vice President, and Cabinet Ministers among other public officials to take an oath of office before assuming their duties. These oaths make a public official swear to perform his or her functions without fear or favour but to uphold the law. One of the purposes of the laws to uphold is to prevent bribery and corruption. Therefore, if there is corruption in this country, the responsibility lies with those who took an oath to combat corruption yet failed to uphold that law they swore to uphold.

Already Seedy Keita has acknowledged that corruption is taking place in this country, which he said is perpetrated by both the public and private sectors. Now, what is he doing about that given his own oath of office as Minister of Finance? That is the question Seedy needs to answer and not to doge and mislead. Let’s ask Seedy Keita about the numerous contracts approved and signed by the Government whether they are free from bribery and corruption?

I hereby put it to Seedy Keita to stop playing with the lives of citizens of this country. Because of Government corruption our children are dying from AKI. Because of Government corruption our people cannot enjoy quality social services. Because of Government corruption people continue to die from preventable diseases. Because of Government corruption our country is hapless and undeveloped. Because of Government corruption our young people are plunging in the Backway only to die in the desert and oceans just to find opportunities outside. Seedy can fool the IMF, UNDP, and World Bank but surely, he cannot fool Gambians.

If he is incompetent and afraid to fight corruption and cannot be bold and honest enough to tell us the truth, then let him resign forthwith. Dishonesty and corruption bi Dafadoy!

For The Gambia Our Homeland

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