Yahya Jammeh’s financial tempest gripped the Gambia in the past days and by the time the storm reaches the shore, we will fully come to know the magnitude of his 22 year rape of our economy.
The recent revelations by the Finance Minister Mr Amadou Sanneh should not surprise us. Jammeh bragged on GTRS that his three generations shall never be poor and that he didn’t need dime from western colonialists and their surrogate Financial institutions like the World Bank or IMF but only depend on Allah’s world Bank. We all know the sky never rain money even for His Great Prophets. So how can it rain money, especially hard foreign currency, for Jammeh? That was a coded message to the country that he was helping himself with our meagre resources.
We now know what his World Bank is and that is our coffers.
I recently read posits of an online paper editor that we cannot believe in the authenticity of these financial revelations unless we have independent audits which I think was laughable. It was clear to me even though being a journalist, this guy has neither clue on how Gambia government financial system works nor the rules concerning auditing of quasi-government institutions. Such institution like the Central Bank have their own set of financial regulations that operate outside government’s own financial rules. The Central Bank is independent of the government at least on paper, they have their own modus operandi and I consider it inappropriate to elaborate on those matters in this article.
From my experience at the Accountant General’s Department, I am quite familiar with government financial systems and procedures. I know it’s very easy to trace and quantify the financial carnage Jammeh inflicted on our institutions.
Jammeh thought he could smartly bypass our payment procedures and thus blind the audit trail, he was deluding himself. You don’t need to be a forensic Accountant and Auditor to unveil his shoddy transactions even if there were no paper trails and even if there was some sophisticated level of collusion. If however the responsible officials who were the custodians and legally responsible for making sure funds are only paid out with right authority and documentation failed to observe due procedures, a good accountant can put the pieces together.
The Ministry of Finance has a well-established financial system and procedures which from my experience is quite astute. Albeit many might think otherwise because of the previous revelations of corruption by government officials during Jarawa era and the subsequent allegations of corruption that emerged in Jammeh era. My answer is that no system in the world is intrinsically corruption-proof, especially when the system operatives collude and those providing oversight play role of spectators.
The financial system of the Gambia has a blueprint of operational instructions called the Financial instructions fondly called the FI. The FI spelt out the complete systems and procedures that are put in place and that are to be religiously adhered to in payment and receipts dispensation. I don’t need to elaborate much on this system but suffice is to say there is specific department called Internal Audit (not Auditor General) which make sure every payment voucher before being finally paid by the Treasury Department is completely scrutinised for authoritative signatures, that the expense is taken from the right expenditure allocation called vote, and that there is sufficient money in that vote.
Vouchers are all checked for supporting documentation to ensure services or goods were delivered before payment. The ministers or heads of departments will be informed at the end of the month about how much was expended by their department or ministry so that any anomalies can be corrected.
The wages or salaries system was even more tightly administered. Each salary or allowance inputs must be properly authorised. The input and output forms go through a series of due diligence checks and balance to ensure they are bona fide payments and are correctly calculated.
A journal report goes to each permanent secretary showing those employees paid under their jurisdiction. How much allowance was paid and all new employees so that they know exactly how much was paid in terms of remuneration to each staff. The controls are designed to ensure that there cannot be ghost employees or the Treasury staff can add employees without the departments or ministries detecting.
The below-the-line payments and recurrent expenditure payment are not only scrutinised by internal audit department but there was a second tier scrutiny provided by the Control unit of the Accountant General’s Department before final payment was made. All these explanations sound boring but the crux is how is Yaya Jammeh able to send a messenger to the Central Bank and walk out with bag full of money.
All the recurrent expenditures of the president’s office is appropriated in the budget under recurrent expenditures. Each expenditure vote state exactly how much was appropriated for each vote in a financial year. Example there will be vote for salaries, transport (car maintenance, fuel) travel etc. So if Saul Badjie can walk into Central Bank and demand cash, what vote was that money taken from under president’s office. More so the president does not have authority to directly demand money from Central Bank. All the authorities in CB know this should never happen.
Let me digress a bit and explain the relationship between the Treasury, Ministry of Finance and Government. The Ministry of Finance is the conduit between the Government and Central Bank. The president has no direct working relationship with Central Bank much more to send a courier to collect money on his behalf except that it is his personal bank which by itself is impeachable offense. The central bank is not a private bank and they are autonomous by an Act of parliament. They function to formulate and implement Government monetary policy through the open market principles (controlling, leveraging money supply, printing money, treasury bills introduction etc.) They are bankers banker (administering reserve policy) and custodian of Government revenue from receipts of taxation, grants, bi-lateral and multi-lateral loans and other revenues.
All revenues collected by Government bodies are lodged at Treasury Receipt Unit who subsequently lodge it at the Central Bank. Central Bank has no money of its own but what I called the people’s money. The Accountant General advise the Central Bank to pay government suppliers, companies or other entities by means of cheque.
Now that the system is computerised it is more sophisticated. The Accountant General issue a cheque to the payee or a ministry accountant who subsequently present it to Central Bank cashier for payment. He can also lodge the cheque to his own bank or if it is drawn on his name or company.
On no circumstances the Central Bank should hand over physical cash to anyone being president envoy, minister or state functionary. It’s complete negligence; if central bank does that; it’s a callous abdication of authority. It’s not only not negligence but deliberate collusion in robbery of state resources. It’s as simple as that.
Someone might ask how about monies from SSHFC, GAMTEL, Ports Authority. Well, quasi-movement institutions have separate financial procedures and their funds must not come to central bank. All their funds should be either lodged in their respective banks or within their cash management system. That’s why it’s out of the ordinary that Gamtel gateway funds find its way into the grasp of office of the president. The parliament should have intervened and stopped this unholy relationship forthwith but the whole governance system had been high-jacked by Mr Jammeh and his enablers.
As far as I know, the Finance Minister, the Governor, while cognizant of their impotence because of fear of their lives and positions, can be understandably excused by some people but there is glaringly culpability here. If you cannot abide by your governing rules, then your conscience should dictate that you resign. To say that is no joke to me because I visualise how humble and capable the Governor is was through my intermittent interactions with him.
Jammeh over the years tampered with the forex market too to his advantage and he made millions through the so-called executive interventions to fix the USD and Sterling rates. This is a topic of its own.
Mr Sanneh (FCCA, MBA) has unrivalled financial dexterity and experience; will not accept figures which portend so much political implications without requisite authentication. I know for sure the figures come from the various entities’ top administrators. Mr Sunnah has been a Fellow Chartered Accountant (FCAA) for many years and with his distinctive persona, from my working experience with him; has no perchance for political point scoring. Besides, he is the highest financial authority to demand the impeccable information from any government authority and quasi authority.
An Audit will form an independent opinion but whatever information they rely on, come from the responsible managers.
The financial rape of our country started in earnest since the inception of the junta as intimated in my last article. The members of the junta came to office conspicuously as paupers and within a short period they quenched ther thirst for wealth from our meagre resources.
Yahya I can recalled was heralding the end to “deerimoocracy” of the PPP regime. However, Jammeh took corruption, wealth avarice and financial carnage to a new height in the Gambian history. It is “Jammehcracy” where presidential power is used for self-perpetuation, extravaganza, land grabbing, business usurping and to cap it all, unmitigated greed. He tantalisingly paraded his ignorable perchance for exorbitant parties, pageantry and frivolous spending on wrestlers, musicians and stars. The Wiri Wiri and Nigerian stars, what a bunch of moral nonentities.
The collaboration of 3$-Badjies standing on the platform of Jola bourgeoisie, not a mere anecdote in our history but unforgettable epitaph in our collective consciousness. We have to revisit our conscience and ask ourselves, how can we stand by and let one man control everything: our freedom, our land, our resources and our government system? How can one man mine our natural resources and send its proceeds to his personal accounts without anyone being parliament, security forces and populace even feebly standing up to him and say enough is enough? We cannot just evoke casual niceties of maslaha the enablers should answer questions and we shall once again relaunch our national anthem, LET JUSTICE GUIDE OUR ACTIONS AND OUR PROMISE WE RENEW.
National rebuilding is not the prerogative of only the government but the entire populace. In my subsequent articles, I shall inshallah exposition on the need to revisit our tax system to expand the tax incidence. Small businesses are major contributors to UK economy and its Government greatly encourage small business to register by online means which is very easy. Although they give a lot of incentives but they institute an efficient tax administrative and collection system.
In the Gambia how many tailors, carpenters, masonry, drivers, mechanics etc. are registered as a company or self-employed and how many are paying the right taxes? How many people are renting out properties and the government is not even aware of the amount of income they generate much more to effectively register and tax them? In order for the Government to provide good service, people must pay taxes because we cannot rely on grants forever. If you have your kitchen in overseas you will die of hunger if that kitchen got burnt. The need for a reliable, efficient and effective tax system is key ingredients to economic sustainability. Invariably an expedient management of tax revenue for socio-economic development is sacrosanct, to say the least. If people realise that their taxes are put to effective use, they will readily pay tax. If the government’s tax system replicates the ineffectiveness of Brikama Area council tax system, it will be a case of monkey works, baboon chops. That juggernaut of a council, wailing for decentralisation so that revenue collected is close to service users. They collect ed our rates (Naamo) but 30 years, rendered nothing for Gunjur, hmmm….
Finally, and admittedly, I am one of the proponents of economic indigenisation if I may borrow that word. Even though I recognise that the strategic economic exhortation of this century extol open market economy; to usher in a productive economy; Gambia need to create and strengthen domestic manufacturing. This may sound like a nationalistic orchestration, sufficient is to assert that, 52 years of independence, we still import rice, oil, tomato puree, sugar the raw materials of which we always record bumper harvest. Also government contracts are awarded to Gambian controlled businesses so that the revenue generated stays in the country. That will most certainly empower the stakeholders and revenue will filter through the Government financial system.
I will finish by quoting Sura Yunus: verse 11 here: Inallah la yughiaru bigawmin hatta yughaiyeru ma bi anfusikum. This Quranic verse is translated thus: “Verily Allah will not change the good (condition) of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness.”
Commendable useful Think Tank proposals and please ensure for attention to Coalition government.