By Momodou Jarju
Fifty-five years after Independence, The Gambia is yet to know its total assets.
The Minister of Finance, Mambury Njie, informed lawmakers in Banjul on Wednesday, that the total assets owned by the Government of The Gambia both within and outside the country are currently unknown.
“Currently there is no comprehensive government assets register,” Njie said while responding to a question posed by the member for Upper Saloum, Alhagie Mbow, who asked him to inform the assembly about the country’s total assets both within and outside The Gambia as at end December 2018.
However, Minister Njie said the Government of The Gambia has acquired an asset register module and has engaged ministries to complete their assets register for imputing into the Integrated Financial Information Management Systems (IFMIS). “Honourable Minister being the ministry that is responsible to manage all the assets and liabilities of government, why are you leaving this in the hands of other ministries to do that for you?” asked the lawmaker.
In his response, Minister Njie said this has been the norm in the past because it was decentralized. He said they are now centralizing the registration of assets by capitalizing on the current technology- that’s the IFMIS system.
“We never have a module that will capture all of this information, so it was decentralized,” Minister Njie said.
According to Minister Njie, this is long overdue. In fact, he indicated that as part of their budgetary submission to the national assembly, all the assets and the valuation should be part of that budgetary submission.
“So is a process ongoing and we want to make sure that, now everything is centralized, and with the technology now, with a click of a button, you can access all the information,” he informed the lawmakers.
Mbowe further asked the minister whether they have any specific timeline to complete the task of gathering the data, Minister Njie responded in the negative.
Nonetheless, he said they are trying to come up with a timeline. Njie said they are thinking of coming up some sets of incentives to say “that if it provide on time, certain things will be done.”
“But for the time being, if I give you a timeline…So even if the information is available, imputing it and trying to disaggregate that information is very difficult,” Njie said.
Njie assured Mbow and the assembly that the matter is given the attention it requires and hopefully they should be able to get something soon.
Serrekunda lawmaker, Halifa Sallah, asked whether the minister sees the urgency for the availability of data about the assets, saying “how would the accountant general prepare accounts for audits without the assets of government being known?”
Minister Njie responded in the positive, adding that they have covered a lot of data now.
“I can say we have gone more than 70% of data gathering. So I just want to avoid giving any timeline, but be assured that we have gone very far and we want to make sure that hopefully by the time we come in December, you will be able to get (he breaks) but sometimes if they (assets) are so scattered, that is so difficult. Is not only giving us the data, but we have to go through internal audit and the auditor general to confirm and verify where those are the assets. Some of them are obsolete, some of them are already being oxen and you still see the data in there. So the verification process that is what is taking a lot of our time,” Njie explained