By Awa B. Bah
The speaker of the National Assembly, Mariam Jack Denton has said that as an arm of government, the national assembly does not work in isolation. Mariam Jack Denton was speaking on Friday 15th September 2016, during a press briefing on the 2017-2018 session of the National Assembly Oversight Committee, at the National Assembly complex in Banjul.
The purpose of the press briefing is to inform all and sundry that the national assembly through various standing orders and select committees, shall commence its oversight session from the 16th October 2017, to consider the auditor general’s reports on the audited accounts of the central government, for the outstanding financial years of 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The session will also deal with the annual activity reports and audited financial statements of all public enterprises and agencies of government including key ministries and departments and any other report or conduct any public hearing(s) / investigations as may be required.
Speaker Denton said the primary objective of this statutory exercise is to perform lawful oversight of public enterprises and agencies and public services and projects.
‘‘As people’s representatives, it is our responsibility to ensure that government and its public services, as well as public enterprises and agencies, are accountable to the Gambian tax payers. The law requires that all public enterprises/agencies must submit their annual activity reports and audited financial statements to the national assembly within three months before the end of each financial year, for scrutiny. As we are aware of the challenges faced by some public enterprises and agencies during the audited period, it has been resolved that documents must be submitted not later than seven working days before the scheduled appearance of any institution,’’ the speaker said.
She added that the national assembly under the new dispensation, shall ensure that oversight committee sessions are conducted concurrently and public accounts and public enterprises committees, shall sit separately to consider reports. Other relevant select committees she said, shall also sit during the same period to consider reports of sectors, ministries and departments.
The Speaker revealed that all the committees shall be aided by the auditor general’s office, the permanent secretary ministry of finance and economic affairs, office of the president, the solicitor general and legal secretary, the accountant generals departments, the director of internal audit MOFA and the director general, Gambia public procurement authority GPPA.
In accordance with the provisions of section 108 sub-section 1 of the 1997 constitution, Speaker Denton said all committees shall be assisted by subject- matter specialist in considering reports and audited financial statements of public enterprises and agencies as well as key government ministries.
During each session, the board chairperson, chief executive officer / managing and finance directors of each public enterprise and agencies, accompanied by their external auditors, shall formally present reports of their activities and audited financial statements for the year under review. In case of government ministries and departments, the permanent secretaries accompanied by their finance director and technical team, shall appear before the committees.
The Speaker said after each management’s presentation, the committees shall thereafter proceed to consider the annual activity reports and audited financial statements presented.
Key witnesses from managements she noted, shall give testimonies and any other witness the committees may consider necessary. Members of the committees together with the auditor general, the director general GPPA and the subject-matter specialist, shall ask questions and raise issues or call for further information pertinent to the reports presented and the management shall respond to such interventions.
Speaker Denton further said that performing oversight on public institutions and services, is indeed very important and crucial in governance, because this will make public officials accountable to the Gambia tax-payers. The national assembly she said, shall ensure through its various committees, that the interest of all those committed to ‘our’ charge, are fully served.
The national assembly according to the speaker, is mandated under the constitution and has a duty entrusted on it to scrutinized institutions on how they spend tax-payers monies and where necessary, to appropriately sanction bad management and or appreciate good management. This she said, will ensure that accountability prevails in all our public institutions and ensure efficient and effective services are delivered to the general public.
She thanked the Gambian people and development partners for their continuous support and collaboration in strengthening the national assembly through various capacity building trainings. This support she said, will no doubt enhance the capacity of members to effectively deliver on the responsibilities entrusted on them by the Gambian people.
Speaker Denton urges all ministries, public enterprises and agencies to fully comply and conform to parliamentary standards and best practices in submitting reports. All public enterprises, agencies and relevant institutions she said, are urged to note and include in their submissions, a strategic plan, an update of the 2016 PAC/PEC recommendations and report, and a comprehensive list of all staff undergoing training at both local and overseas, with or without study leave with salary and key details. She called on the management of PEs / Pas, to accordingly take note and comply fully.