By: Kebba AF Touray
The Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) of the National Assembly, yesterday engaged the Ministry of Finance to dilate on the D734 million that has been taken from the Debt Service, to provide food relief to the nation in the wake of COVID-19 Restriction period.
The session brought together Members of the FPAC Committee and the Ministry of Finance, to discuss on issue of COVID-19 operations such as virement and commodities that the government supplies to the Gambians.
Minister of Finance, Mambury Njie, shortly after the session, told journalists that the spending of COVID-19 Emergency Fund is guided and relied on section 29 of the Public Finance Act 2014, which has given powers to reallocate funds.
He said that the most important thing is that the amount being appropriated by the National Assembly is still being respected without any extra budgetary expenditure.
He clarified that out of the 24 virements, 20 were all on travels and the current travel ban, clearly indicates that they can use those funds to respond to COVID-19 and at the moment it is only the Gambian taxpayer’s money that is being used, with accountability and in the right way.
He said “the second virement is to the tune of about D734 million. It is very clear that we are now enjoying debt referral and we are now making a lot of savings from the debt referral. The second one is coming from the savings that we made from the referral”.
This he said means that they will use the debt referral for 5 years or more and at the time of paying the debt, with an increase in economy activities and converting every debt the country takes into assets, the high indebtedness of the country from the past regime will be averted.
He said “if we were endowed with enough resources then we will do it in one piece meal, because it is about management, mobilizing and raising funds. As at now everything is locally mobilized. This is why the first virement is for COVID-19 health related. The second one is response to the cries of the most vulnerable people. This is why we did the virement for the second time”.
He assured that with the second virement, the most vulnerable people will be taken care of and curb COVID-19, while calling for the need to have fiscal discipline, as they are very mindful of leakages and abuses, to ensure accountability in spending the fund.
He lamented that the urgent need to provide food aid to the citizens has compelled them to operate in piece meal, emphasizing that the hungry citizens cannot wait for financial support coming from other donors.
This he said has compelled them to mobilize and act in the public interest, to wipe the tears of the Gambians.