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CSO Statement on the President’s Appointment of Executive Coordinators for Banjul and KMC

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HE Adama Barrow, President of the Republic of the Gambia

4th December 2023, Banjul.

In the month of November 2023, the President decided to appoint Executive Coordinators for Banjul and Kanifing Municipal Council, a move which has gathered significant public debate with the President’s Office issuing a clarification on the Executive’s powers to affect such an appointment.

The legal debate is not one which Civil Society Organisations are currently prepared to engage in. However, our legal advisors are currently looking into the legality of such appointments by the President.

It is our considered view that the appointments contradict the Government’s National Development Plan 2018 to 2021 (NDP 2018 – 2021) and will take away scarce resources which Local Governments need for development. Our statement wishes to address these two issues to encourage the President to rescind his decision to appoint Executive Coordinators which the newly appointed Executive Coordinator for Banjul has stated “is very similar to Governor’s role, is only that the titles are different”.

The President’s intention first came to the public’s attention during a political rally back in 11th December 2022 at Buffer Zone when he outlined his intention to appoint Governors in Banjul and Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC). Less than a year later the President has now acted on his intention which does not bode well for decentralization and the delivery of local services.

In this regard, the undersigned Civil Society Organisations wish to remind the President of the principle of decentralization as stipulated in the NDP 2018 – 2021. Given that the 2023 NDP has not been launched yet our observations have been limited to the now outdated NDP 2018 – 2021.

Decentralization

The NDP 2018-2021 mentions decentralization 76 times and includes it as the first strategic priority. In fact, under the “Plan Overview” it states that the Government’s goals will be realized through “empowering citizens through decentralization and local governance”. Cognizant of the failures of the previous government, the current government’s plan highlights that “the process of decentralization had experienced considerable setbacks due to reduced commitment to pursue devolution”.

The issue of conflict was highlighted in the plan noting that “the momentum [for decentralization] further waned due to domestic issues around political will, inadequate funding, low competences in councils, role conflicts between the centre and the periphery and between councils and new semi-autonomous entities”.

To address some of these challenges the current government promised that it “will review and update the decentralization and local government act, in order to strengthen its implementation; other policies and regulatory frameworks will be harmonized for enhanced coordination of the decentralization programme; the revenue base of Councils will be expanded and Standardized Financial Management and Accounting Systems will support the decentralization process”.

The benefits of decentralization are widely lauded in the current government’s plan as a means of bringing “decision making closer to the people (as voters, consumers, and tax payers) to ensure that decisions made reflect local needs and priorities, resulting in more economical and efficient allocation of resources and service delivery”.

All these observations encouraged the government to designate the Ministry of Lands and Regional Government “to ensure fully empowered and functional local government structures that stimulate and respond to the demographic and economic trends of the Gambia”. An outcome which has not been achieved and which will be reversed by the recent appointments of Executive Coordinators.

Below are some of the key expected results for decentralization as stipulated in the NDP 2018 – 2021.

Although the Government’s lofty plans are commendable, it’s very important to implement them and assess their progress.

It is our considered view that the appointment of Executive Coordinators and their Deputy will take considerable resources from Local Governments. Newly appointed Executive Coordinators will be paid a salary, provided a fully functioning office, allocated a vehicle, drivers and all the staff required, office equipment and programmes to implement within their administrative area. The 2024 Draft Budget indicates that Executive Coordinators for Banjul and KMC will cost taxpayers at least D1.07 Million in 2024 on salaries and allowances alone.

Considering the scarcity of resources, before the government decides to proceed with its decision to allocate all these resources to a new office which will potentially rival the existing local government structures, we urge the Executive to consider the benefit of allocating these resources into the existing local governance structures in furtherance of its Development Priorities.

In this regard we the undersigned Civil Society Organisations call on the Government to;

  1. Return to the drawing board and assess its progress in achieving the objectives set out in the NDP 2018 – 2021 on Decentralization,
  2. Reverse its decision to appoint Executive Coordinators for Banjul and Kanifing Municipal Council.
  3. Assess the necessity of appointing governors for other regions vs redirecting such resources into local government structures in other regions,
  4. Conduct a cost analysis on the benefits of maintaining the office of governors vs investing the same resources into existing local government structures across all regions,
  5. Review the Local Government Act 2002 and other government policies to enhance decentralization,
  6. Strengthen human and institutional capacities for decentralization of existing local governance, structures, and
  7. Expand the revenue bases for councils supported by standardized financial management and accounting systems.

Signed by

  1. Team Gom Sa Bopa, Ali “Killa Ace” Cham, President
  2. Gambia Press Union, Muhammed M S Bah, President
  3. Salimatou Foundation for Education, Salimatou Fatty, Executive Director
  4. Beakanyang Kafo, Nfamara Jawneh, Executive Director
  5. FactCheck Gambia, Omar Saibou Camara, Executive Director
  6. ANEKED, Sirra Ndow, the Gambia Country Rep
  7. Activista, Cherno Gaye, Programs Manager
  8. Right 2 Know, Jeggan Grey Johnson, Coordinator
  9. Solo Sandeng Foundation, Fatima Sandeng, Founder and CEO
  10. Baboucarr Nyang, Activist
  11. Madi Jobarteh, Human Rights Activist
  12. Omar Danso, Activist

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