By BABOUCARR CEESAY
Suwaibou Touray, the National Assembly Member for Wuli East has utilised his clothing allowance to support his constituents.
The allocation of the said D100, 000 allowance was received with dismay by many citizens and civil society actors and bluntly criticized.
Many believed that there are more pressing issues to prioritise than creating privileges for parliamentarians who are enjoying good salaries in Gambian terms and other allowances but proponents said they should enjoy such benefit as representatives of the people.
The Wuli East deputy who was elected to parliament under People’s Dmocratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) decided to give this allowance back to his constituency.
“When I received this amount, I made an enquiry and confirmed that it was indeed budgeted and I came to the conclusion that it is on the high side which triggers the question, what should I do? I then came to the conclusion that there are priority challenges in my Constituency, which require urgent attention. It was my intention to seek for support from NGOs and charities to address some of those challenges but with the availability of this amount, I could readily use it to address them headlong. So I came up with a rough budget as you can see below which was approved by my Constituency Development Committee and is being implemented,” Touray clarified on his facebook page.
He added that the budget which has been implemented half way was spent on 2 cylinder borehole pumps D40, 000; Jerseys and footballs for 6 teams D24, 000; support to 2 women farmers’ group D20, 000; house for a physically challenged young man D31, 000 totaling D115, 000.
He stated that he would contribute to the deficit in the budget equivalent to D15, 000 from the proceeds of his Committee meeting allowances in due course.
“What is already accomplished is the installation of the 2 pumps and water is now available for the two communities, i.e. Bohum Kunda and Koli Kunda. Football jerseys are provided to 4 out of the 6 teams, ie. Passamas Fula, Boro Sambara Sasi, Boye Kunda and Brifu. Sare Bohum and Sutukoba will follow suit,” he stated.
Position on the clothing allowance
The Wuli East lawmaker said Gambia National Assembly members were never receiving this allowance save 2022.
“Initially, it was only the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, that benefit from this allocation. For example, Robbing or Clothing allowance for the Speaker for the year 2021 was D60, 000 and for 2022 it is D120,000.”
Now the Gambia National Assembly attained financial autonomy in 2022 before the National Budget was laid before Parliament. It is the National Assembly Authority that prepares the National Assembly budget. There was no occasion where members were involved in debate regarding budget of the Assembly, according to him.
He explained that all the proposals in the budget were from the authority.
“While Committees were assigned to have bilateral with Ministries and Departments on their budget proposals, there was no Committee that was identified to scrutinise the Assembly’s budget as it has been done to other sectors. If any it could have been only the Finance and Public Accounts Committee as they had the responsibility to prepare the Consolidated report on the Estimates and report back to the Plenary.
During that debate, only the Motion on the loan for NAMs was debated but no other issue was raised regarding the National Assembly budget.”
For Suwaibou, if the Assembly budget was scrutinised by a Committee, they would surely seek for clarifications on the figures on allowances and ask for disaggregation so that it becomes clear as to what sort of allowances are allocated for NAMs but the approved total for all allowances including all the staff amounts to D107 Million.
On implementing the budget, he said the responsible authority said clothing allowance is catered for and decided to make it a one off payment at D100, 000 for the period of 5 years.
“The objective of now providing clothing allowance, I am told is to do away with the discrimination between members but on a second look, the discrimination is glaring when you look closely you will see that Nominated Members are provided Responsibility Allowance and the Speaker too is also provided with Professional allowance of D250, 000 per year, he noted.
He acknowledged that these and many others are anomalies that must be addressed in the next coming 2023 budget, adding that practice dictates that members are not provided for professional allowance but wrong precedent is set for the outgoing Speaker as a Lawyer.
Mr. Abubacarr Keita, one of the implementers of the budget confirmed to The Monitor that the Wuli East deputy has given back to his people the allowances allocated to him for clothing to help resolve some of the urgent challenges of his constituency.