By Yankuba Jallow
Lawyer Ida Drammeh for the Clerk of the National Assembly has urged the Supreme Court to dismiss the case involving her client and two civil society groups for lack of a base in law.
Lawyer Drammeh was responding to Lawyer Hawa Sisay-Sabally for Gambia Participate and the Center for Research and Policy Development (plaintiffs).
“Where it is clear that the Minister of Finance made the amendment before the estimates are approved, there cannot be a complaint,” she said.
The Senior Lawyer said the Court cannot grant the Plaintiffs’ claims considering the principle of separation of powers in the Constitutition.
“There is nothing wrong in the National Assembly approving the revolving loan scheme,” she said.
Lawyer Drammeh submitted that there was no amendment done by the National Assembly contrary to what the plaintiffs’ case suggest.
“It was the Minister of Finance who actually amended the estimates,” Lawyer Drammeh said.
She said there is no basis for the complaint once it is proven that the Ministers of Finance made the amendment.
“The Plaintiffs misconceived what is contained in the estimates and the Appropriation Act,” she said.
She said the approved estimates make provision for “revolving loan scheme” which was appropriated in line with relevant laws.
She submitted that section 47 of the Public Finance Act (PFA) gives the Minister of Finance the power to extend a loan subject to criteria stated in that section particularly subsection 2.
“There was no amendment done by the National Assembly and that is why there is no document before this court showing such amendment,” Lawyer Drammeh said.
She cited section 97 and 100 of Evidence Act which deal with production of document.
“This court does not have before it the motion and the court is invited to speculate what was said in that motion in order to consider the prayers in the suit,” Drammeh said.
She said the court cannot and ought not to make far reaching determination on issues like this one. She added that the Constitution entrenches the principle of the separation of powers.
She relied on the provisions of Chapter 9 of the Public Finance Act including sections 151.
“It is clear that there is an Appropriation Act 2021 which includes D54.4 million,” she said.
She said by the action, the court is invited at this premature state to prevent the President and authorities to carry out a responsibility provided for in the laws.
“I urge this honourable court to decline that invitation,” Drammeh said.
She relied on Standing Orders 82 (2), 86 (4) (5) and (6) as well as 86 (8) and (9). Also, she relied on section 101 (4) of the Constitution and section 47 of the Public Finance Act.
She said section 47 of the Public Finance Act does not say loan cannot be made available to the National Assembly.
She said the Plaintiffs have invited the court to speculate on whether section 106 of the Constitution was not complied with.
“The court ought not to act contrary to the principle of separation of powers,” she said.
She submitted that the National Assembly did not act in any way in breach of any applicable law.
She down played the ‘amicus’ brief by Activista – The Gambia and Transparency International saying it is inviting the court to apply international law when there are clear domestic laws in place. She said ‘amicus’ brief cited mainly treaties and convention which in her submission cannot override the Constitution and the Act of the National Assembly governing public finance.
“We cannot rely on treaties and what is good practice to displace what is provided for in our Constitution,” she said.