Gambia’s president is yet to keep his promise that he and his ministers will declare their assets three months into their swearing-in.
President Adama Barrow made the pledge during the crisis that followed his election victory against the longtime military ruler, Yahya Jammeh.
Barrow’s government faces a lot of challenges, including corruption, which had plagued Mr. Jammeh’s administration. Jammeh, who came to power as poor-underpaid Army Lieutenant amassed billions in wealth during his rule.
To prevent corruption, and ensure accountability and transparency, activists are reminding Mr. Barrow and his ministers to declare their assets.
An investigation into financial mismanagement in Jammeh’s executive office found more than 100 accounts in the names of individual civil servants used to divert taxpayers’ money.
A court in The Gambia’s capital, Banjul has ordered for the freezing of Jammeh’s domestic assets, the first anti-graft action by Barrow’s government to recover some of the country’s stolen wealth.
The Gambian government has said that former President Yahya Jammeh fled the country with $50 million, and left the government with a debt of $1 billion. The most recent figure from the IMF is that the Gambia’s total government debt is $881 million.
“The figures released today suggest over $100 million of debt has been hidden. A full transparent audit of the debt is needed to find out its true scale, reveal who facilitated these loans, and to help track down any stolen money hidden in tax havens and secret jurisdictions,” according to IMF and the World Bank.
Corruption and tax evasion by senior government officials and their associates has been blamed for the lack of public services for citizens. Gambia is ranked 145 out of 176 by Transparency International.
Barrow and his cabinet’s declaration of their assets have to be followed with needed new rules to curb corruption and ensure financial discipline.