By Momodou Jarju
Dozens of lawmakers of the National Assembly have questioned and expressed their dissatisfaction towards the Government of The Gambia on the timing they were given to review and ratify the new financing agreements Government acquired from international partners recently.
Lawmakers made this known on Friday during an emergency meeting that served as the first extra-ordinary sitting of the 2020 legislative year, which was supposed to start next month, March 16.
The minister of finance and economic affairs, Mamburry Njie, did not explain why the two deals were “rushed” to the assembly when he was tabling the motion, but he was asked by some members of the assembly to explain to that effect.
Halifa Sallah, Serrekunda lawmaker said: “Honorable speaker first and foremost, the Honorable minister should have explained why it is urgent to summon this meeting, because it costs this assembly resources. So, the first task was to tell us why all of us have to suspend our committee meetings to be here. So that we can be convinced in the first place, that what we are summoned to do is actually urgent for us to do.”
Moving forward, Sallah drew the attention to the National Assembly on their standing orders that did not indicate the procedures they should take on whether they should decide a meeting to be an emergency or not with regards to motions.
He said unlike the introduction of a bill under Certificate of urgency where the motion will be put to the National Assembly and without debate under section 101, they decide whether they will proceed or not.
“Ultimately, we should amend this constitution and improve our standing orders so that in ratifying international agreements, motion will be put when we are summoned to extraordinary session so that we decide whether the matter is actually an urgent matter requiring such a decision that is absolutely essential,” he said.
Minister Njie responded that they had a deadline with one of the agreements due in March so they thought it prudent to take it to the lawmakers for possible ratification or consideration.
Some of the members said they received the documents late and they should have been given time to go through the documents to be able to properly scrutinize and add value to them.
Nominated member of the assembly Ya Kumba Jaiteh opined that the explanation given by the minister that they have a deadline by March for the agreement to be approved, else they would lose it, is an excuse.
Jaiteh argued that they could have told the development partners that the national assembly members, who represent the Gambians, needed time to go through the financing agreements to properly, review them and add value to the documents.
Jarra East lawmaker, Sainey Touray expressed similar remarks, saying his conscience would not allow him to bless the motion because motions must be scrutinized and dissected properly for the greater good and not otherwise.
The two financing agreements were later ratified, one of them with amendment. But regardless, dozens of lawmakers have raised plethora of concerns with two major issues on lack of proper management and implementation. The Finance and Economic Minister Hon. Njie, as well as the Agriculture Minister, Hon. Amie Fabureh, expressed optimism that the projects will be successful.
The first deal to be ratified was the financing agreement between the Government of the Gambia and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the Resilience of Organizations for Transformational Fund for Agriculture Project (ROOTS), amounting to USD 21,275,000.00 (Twenty-one million, two hundred and seventy-five thousand United States Dollars).
And the second is the financing agreements between the Government of the Gambia and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) for the Regional Rice Value Chain Development Program amounting to USD 17,300,000.00 (Seventeen million, three hundred thousand United States Dollars) respectively.