While swearing in commissioners to investigate local government councils, president Barrow clarified that the Government bears a statutory oversight obligation over Councils justifying that the setting up of this Commission of Inquiry is the result of complaints sent from four Councils about alleged financial and administrative irregularities.
“Guided by Section 200 of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, I deem it necessary to establish a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the alleged irregularities. In discharging our responsibilities as a government, we are committed to the principles of accountability and transparency, thus we have to take proper steps to strengthen professionalism in all public institutions, including Local Councils. ”
The president told commissioners that their task includes conducting a holistic and fair review of the financial and administrative operations of Councils, to improve their governance and service delivery components, based on standard procedures.
“Establishing this Commission of Inquiry is apt, considering the nature of the irregularities brought to the Government’s attention. To provide evidence in support of this line of action, the Ministry of Lands, Regional Government, and Religious Affairs received complaints from four Local Councils about alleged financial and administrative irregularities. ”
He revealed that almost two months into the 2023 fiscal year, for example, the Banjul City Council is yet to submit its annual budget for scrutiny by the Ministry, as provided for by the Local Government Finance and Audit Act 2004.
“Also, at the Kanifing Municipal Council, there have not been a Chief Executive Officer and Director of Finance for nearly two years. Furthermore, oversight measures, including a court ruling and directives from the Local Government Service Commission to institute suitable redress procedures, are still being hindered. These circumstances, among other factors, have seriously undermined the administration and social service delivery obligations of the said Councils. ”
He further asserted that the Gambia Government has a huge responsibility to restore and maintain normality at all levels of the Establishment. It bears a statutory oversight obligation over Councils and has been duly advised to adopt appropriate measures to address the irregularities complained against them.
“The Terms of Reference of the Commission of Inquiry into the Conduct of Local Councils aim at providing Government with informed policy choices for effective Local Government reform and a functional decentralization framework. The task of the Commission is to investigate and present its report within three months to guide Government on the adoption of relevant policy and administrative options. Ultimately, the outcome of the investigation will further guide the administration, policies, and procedures of Councils and spell out the relationship between elected and appointed Council Officials. ”
President Barrow told the distinguished Commissioners, that they are people of integrity and high standing in society.
“We are convinced, therefore, that you will work diligently to deliver a decent report within the set timeline. ”