Why is Gambia yet to have its own anti-corruption agency?

Many Gambians are questioning why the country is yet to have its own Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) given that addressing corruption is not a stand-alone problem but a national governance challenge through institution of appropriate policies to prevent and adequately sanction where there are breaches.

Article 20 UNCAC and Article 6(3) ECOWAS Protocol

Calls for “Enactment of appropriate legislation to stem corruption and criminalise all corrupt conduct including power to investigate and prosecute persons for unjust enrichment”.

It is generally believed that there is a lack of demonstration of a real strong political will at the highest level of government as regards setting up an anti-graft body in The Gambia.

Amadou Ceesay, a youth activist and political commentator, said that the government will not want to set up an anti-corruption agency in this country because it will play a pivotal role in the enforcement, prevention and investigation of corrupt practices.

According to him, ACAs have the potential to hold even the most powerful people in society to account with over 100 of them around the world. “There is massive potential to attach the power of agencies as crucial partners in the fight against corruption. It will be very difficult for the government of The Gambia and the private sector to set up such an agency because there is so much corruption in the institutions in this country.

While describing an effective anti-corruption agency as a huge strength in the fight against corruption when it is independent of the government and empowered to investigate allegations, he was emphatic that it will not work in The Gambia because there is rampant corruption with the government saying or doing nothing about it.

“I understand that there has been an Anti-Corruption Bill at the National Assembly for some years now, but it is yet to be passed into law; because if we have it in our law many people will be victimised,” he opined.

Politicising ACAs

Creating an ACA is only the first step in the fight against corruption. Across the world wide gaps exist between a government commitment in establishing ACAs and the realisation of their mandate. There is no global standard for an ideal ACA and the effectiveness of many, if not most ACAs, is inhibited by limited resources, insufficient mandate to fight corruption and political interference from government and their agencies. This has been rampant in Africa.

In Nigeria, for example, when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was established by the Obasanjo regime in 1999, it was welcomed with unprecedented enthusiasm by many Nigerians. The man that headed the Commission, Nuhu Ribadu, did a good work bringing many public officers to account, among them powerful politicians.

But as the years went by, the EFFC became increasingly politiciced, with Obasanjo using it to checkmate political foes. The man that succeeded Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’dua succumbed to pressure from powerful interests and removed Ribadu. The present Buhari regime has largely adopted Obasanjo’s method of using the anti-graft commission to witch-hunt political opponents.

Characteristics of ACAs

*Full powers to investigate and prosecute without the permission of the AG or any other person.

* Designated courts to try corruption and other economic crime cases

*Bar on interlocutory appeals to prevent delays during trials

*Unhindered access to critical information by investigators

*Protection of informants/whistle blowers

*Abrogation of Banking Secrecy

*Interim forfeiture/restraint of assets, subject of investigation

*Advertisement, competitive and transparent bidding for all major government procurements

*The head must be bold, passionate, fearless, selfless and of unquestionable integrity.

*Must be ready to confront vested interests

*Must approach the work intelligently, tactfully and methodically

*Take all the corruption cases as they come but in the order that will not jeopardize the institution interest itself nor indeed the government.

*Establish a strong institutional integrity

*Must insulate the operations of the body from politics and politicians

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