Gambians will not have the opportunity to see the declared assets of their ministers, a decision that has cast a doubt over the credibility of the exercise.
The country’s president, Adama Barrow cited privacy for the public officials but activists are now saying it will not help in any way to prevent corruption.
“There must be some kind of privacy regarding assets disclosure. The Ombudsman will have the declaration and the Ombudsman represents all Gambians and that is enough,” Barrow said.
The decision came amid allegations that one of Barrow’s senior ministers purchased a $250,000 (D8 million dalasis) home just within six months of coming to power.
Accusations are also widespread that ministers and some senior officials are giving contracts without following procurement procedures to companies without due process, citing corrupt practices.
Many in the media were waiting for the assets declaration to determine if this was true and to follow up with the lands and records department to cross check if state officials had any other properties.
The ministers were supposed to declare their assets by mid-July but some failed to meet the deadline. The government has extended the deadline indefinitely, raising a red flag.
It would have been the first show of transparency and accountability in the Gambia but it has quickly metamorphosized into a game of hide and seek with pro-democracy campaigners.
“There is no need for them to declare their assets if they will not make it public. Then what is the essence of it,” asked activist Coach Pa Samba Jow in a response to SMBC’s Sam Phatey.
“I believe they should be made public and we want to know so we can interrogate and hold them accountable, especially given what had happened with Jammeh coming to power as poor as a church mouse and left leaving us with nothing.”
Jammeh’s ministers never declared their assets and he and his close associates are now accused of corruption, financial mismanagement, and crimes against the state.
Gambian authorities have seized at least 181 compounds, 95 bank accounts, and 21 companies belonging to the former authoritarian ruler.
Corruption has hindered investments into the country and the Barrow administration is on a charm’s offensive to attract foreign investors to revive its ailing economy.
Gambia is the 145 least corrupt nation out of 175 countries, according to the 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Corruption Rank in Gambia averaged 114.79 from 2003 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 158 in 2008 and a record low of 77 in 2011.