As exposures at the Commission of Inquiry into the financial activities of former president Yahya Jammeh continue to grab media headlines and dominate discussions, Gambians both home and abroad are stunned not only by figures in millions of dollars of squandered public funds but also by the exhibition of sheer administrative recklessness, wanton disregard for established rules and risible cowardice in our public and private financial institutions.
I do not intend to preempt the Commission’s final report, but I believe strongly that some former and current top officials of the Central Bank of The Gambia have callously aided and abetted, in a jaw-dropping fashion, a financial crime syndicate that siphoned our national coffers with unprecedented magnitude and speed.
The fact that junior army officers and even NCOs who ordinarily have no business in government financial operations could authorize withdrawals amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Special Project Account vision 2016 domiciled at our nation’s top bank highlights the extensive intentional laxity of rules in favor of gang members and an unforgivable betrayal of public trust. It is a kind of daylight robbery that defies logic and shocks the conscience of our country.
The bankers’ bank that is supposed to regulate other financial institutions and set the benchmark for procedural discipline did not lack qualified staff. Officials there were not ignorant of what was happening.
Instead, they manifested willful cooperation, blindness, and complicity – just to keep their positions, prestige, and paychecks – while our meager resources were being personalized and shared among cartel members.
Thus, the oft-repeated line of defense or argument that the spectacularly culpable public servants were merely acting on directives from above should be trashed.
Every sane adult individuals are cognitively equipped to differentiate between what is morally right and wrong and these officials had to have known that their actions in honoring checks without proper authority or signatory constitute not only moral turpitude but also elements of criminality.
As I have argued in the past, there cannot be any meaningful and good-faith reform by having compromised civil servants at the helm.
Any serious reform of our public sector will have to account for new faces to take charge, redeployment of others and those implicated in the systemic mess must be relieved of their responsibilities without delay, investigated and made to answer for their actions.
Yahya Jammeh is forced into exile but his disciples and beneficiaries of his financial activities including the ones he personally sponsored could still pose a significant sabotaging threat to the current administration. We can’t expect efficiency in our government without respecting its sacred duty to make personnel changes at key institutions who will ensure unbending adherence to General Orders!