NHRC Advises Enforcement, Implementation of Anti-Corruption Act, NAO Recommendations

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By Assan Bah

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has advised the Government of the Gambia to enforce the Anti-Corruption Act 2023 and to implement the National Audit Office’s (NAO) report on public funds mismanagement and misappropriation.

The Rights Commission said despite suffering a setback at the consideration stage at the National Assembly in September last year, the Anti-Corruption Bill 2023 was eventually passed by Members in December 2023.

As stated in the report, the Gambia ratified the AU Convention on the prevention and combating of corruption on April 30, 2009, and endorsed the United Nations Convention Against Corruption on July 8, 2015. The Commission reminded the government of its responsibility to establish mechanisms, procedures, and legal frameworks to combat corruption.

While putting corruption on the international agenda, these instruments have placed obligations on States parties to put in place systems, processes, and laws to vigorously fight corruption. The UN’s guiding principles on business and human rights also oblige States to ensure businesses comply with human rights standards and laws, including respect for and protection of human rights.

The Commission further reported that Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perception Index ranked The Gambia 110th out of 180 countries, which suggests a high prevalence of corruption in the country, while the 2023 edition ranked The Gambia 98th out of 180 countries.

In an assessment conducted in The Gambia on Governance and Corruption Vulnerabilities, the International Monetary Fund highlighted corruption as one of the vulnerabilities of The Gambia Government.

“The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has observed that corruption constitutes one of the major obstacles to the effective promotion and protection of human rights, particularly in the activities of businesses,” the NHRC reported. 

It further states that corruption undermines “a state’s ability to mobilise resources for the delivery of services essential for the realization of economic, social and cultural rights leading to discriminatory access to public services in favour of those who can influence authorities, including by offering bribes or resorting to political pressure.

“In addition to the ECSR acknowledgment of corruption negatively affecting the enjoyment of rights leading to or constituting a violation of human rights”, the NHRC indicated that ‘it is difficult to find a human right that could not be violated by corruption, which erodes the fundamental values of human dignity, equality and freedom for all, especially disadvantaged groups and persons’.

The Commission, however, acknowledged the government’s efforts during the year under review, in addressing corruption, and in promoting justice and accountability within the public sector.

“The Ministry of Justice in October 2023 filed indictments against senior Government officials and an officer of a Civil Society Organisation in connection to the mismanagement of the 2018 Global Funds grant that was provided to the Ministry of Health. The charges include official corruption, economic crimes, theft, forgery, and conspiracy connected to the use of the global health fund grants allocated to the Ministry of Health,” the report states.

The Rights Commission recommended the State to take all the necessary steps to enforce and implement the Anti-Corruption Act 2023, including the expeditious establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission;

It challenges the government to take the necessary steps to raise awareness about corruption and the existence of the Act to prevent and punish practices; and “implement the recommendations of the audit reports of the National Audit Office regarding mismanagement and misappropriation of public funds.”

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