Thursday, August 11, 2022

‘Our Continent’s Natural Resources Are Under Attack’

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Speaker Elect Jatta

By:Kebba AF Touray

Gambia’s Speaker of the National Assembly Fabakary Tombong Jatta,  said  Africa’s natural resources are under attack.

Speaker Jatta said this on May 9th 2022, while delivering a good will message on the occasion of the 18th Governing Board Meeting of the Africa Organization of English speaking Supreme Audit Institutions  (AFROSAI-E).

“The continent is bleeding and our natural resources are under attack and we are short-changed. I asked that you interrogate the contracts, the production and export of our resources. If the laws need to change, let us work together and do it.  If capacities have to be built, let’s work together and do it for the benefit of  Africa,” Speaker Jatta said, while expressing the honour to be accorded with the unique opportunity to serve as the guest speaker on behalf of the National Assembly of The Gambia.

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Describing the event as historic, Speaker Jatta said the organization commits itself to cooperating with and supporting members to enhance their institutional capacity to enable them successfully fulfil their audit mandates in order to make a difference in the lives of their fellow citizens.

“The importance of a high-profile forum of this magnitude cannot be over emphasised. It accords stakeholders an opportunity to interact and exchange ideas and experiences centred on strengthening  Supreme Audit Institutions’ determination to improve in the areas of independence, accountability and transparency,” he said.

Speaker Jatta said to empower and support Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) should be everyone’s business if the continent wants to ensure transparency, accountability and probity in public finance management systems in all institutions financed with public funds.

That thus the focus of the forum is not only to present and reward best performance audit reports, but to equally  brainstorm on the strategies and mechanisms that will ensure and strengthen the accountability of public funds in public institutions. He said  the National Audit Office (NAO) of The Gambia has been supportive and continues to support the National Assembly in conducting its oversight functions over public institutions.

“NAO is staffed with professionals and patriots who leave no stone unturned, to carry out their work. For the past five years, NAO has been initiative in the way they conduct their audit. The reports submitted to the National Assembly are more user friendly now compared to before,” Speaker Jatta said.

NAO he said, has performed an audit on the funds spent during Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic even before the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) of the National Assembly requested them to do so. Furthermore, Speaker Jatta said the Auditor General and team spent days with Members taking them through the said report.

“This has not only empowered Members of the Assembly in understanding audit report but has also helped them to ask the right questions to Government officials entrusted with the implementation of the Covid-19 response,” he said.

Similarly, Speaker Jatta said the National Audit Office has over the years conducted performance audit on various Government institutions such as Gambia Ports Authority on its cargo handling facility and the report was presented to the Public Enterprises Committee of the National Assembly for scrutiny. He said NAO has conducted similar audit on the supply of farm inputs by the Ministry of Agriculture and distribution of drugs by the Central Medical Store under the Ministry of Health.

“These audits were all geared to ensure  public funds are judiciously utilised by public officers for the public good. These exercises put Government and its institutions on the spotlight thereby ensuring efficient and effective public finance management and ensuring proper public service delivery,” Speaker Jatta said. He however urged all Auditor Generals across the continent to take a closer look at the extractive industry on the continent. He informed the convergence that for the past two decades, the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) of the National Assembly, has been thoroughly scrutinising and extensively deliberating on the Auditor General’s audit reports.

The Committee he said ensures that all relevant stakeholders are engaged during the scrutiny process, with a view to addressing anomalies reported in the report. He remarked that the Auditor General serves and continues to serve as the principal aide to the FPAC in all its deliberations.

“This goes to demonstrate the trust and confidence that the National Assembly has for the Auditor General and the National Audit Office in general,” Speaker Jatta said. He stated that cognisant of the crucial role played by  NAO in ensuring accountability and probity with all the financial and budgetary constraints posed by the Covid pandemic, the National Assembly has been approving the NAO budget as proposed with insignificant cuts compared to other budget entities.

“We believe that not empowering NAO to do their work will be more deadly than Covid or any other austerity measure. The National Assembly has recently constituted committees for the Sixth Legislature, and I happen to be selected as  Vice Chairperson for the FPAC. I can assure you that we will continue to support the excellent work that NAO is doing in fostering good governance and in fighting against wastage of public resources,” assured Speaker Jatta.

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