By Ramatoulie Jawo
Hon. Lamin Ceesay, National Assembly Member (NAM) for Kiang West, proposed a reduction in the travel allowance from D66 million to D40 million during the Committee of Supply session on the 2024 Estimate of Revenue and Expenditure of the Gambia.
In the 2024 estimated revenue and expenditure, D66 million is earmarked for travel expenses under general administration at the office of the president.
Hon. Ceesay justified his proposal by pointing out that the President had previously imposed a travel ban to control costs. He emphasized the inconsistency of increasing the travel allowance from D50 million to D66 million, especially when the President himself advocated for managing costs through travel restrictions in 2023.
“We have remembered the President himself putting a travel ban to manage costs within the year, and the approved amount for them in 2023 execution was 50 million, and he has put in a mechanism to manage this cost within a year, and now we are increasing it for him again from D50 million to 66, and in 2023 when himself (the President) complained that me and my people are traveling so much so we are cutting down, and I am putting a ban on myself and others that we manage that cost. And now we are telling him no; we are giving you D66 Million for you to go beyond D50 Million. The president himself wants to manage this,” Hon. Ceesay outlined.
Hon. Abdoulie Ceesay, the NAM for Old Yundum Constituency, disagreed with Hon. Lamin Ceesay’s justification, arguing that the allocated amount for travel expenses is a planned figure. He asserted that the President has the authority to impose travel bans when necessary, even in 2024, and the allocated amount is sufficient.
“The amount that is allocated for travel expenses is still there to be a plan. The President has all the rights to ban travel when he deems it necessary, even in 2024. So I think the amount that we have allocated here is enough for us to go ahead with him,” Hon. Ceesay said.
Hon. Sainey Jawara, the NAM for Lower Saloum, supported the proposed figure, emphasizing that it covers general administration, not just the Office of the President. He highlighted that the Vice President’s Office and other agencies fall under this category.
Meanwhile, Hon. Sulayman Saho, NAM for Central Badibu, called on fellow members to be prepared for reductions, emphasizing the pressing issues in the country that need funding. He urged realism in allocating funds, particularly when members are voicing concerns about infrastructure such as health centers and roads in their constituencies.
“Us as parliament, we have a role to play, and our role is to allocate; that is our function here at this material time. So we cannot just try to allocate because the President’s Office needs to travel. No. The President himself said there was a travel ban, which everybody welcomed in this country. So why are you allocating funds when we know we have our health centers, our roads and other areas? When every MP is complaining about the roads in their constituencies, where will we get the funds from? Let us be realistic, let us accept each other and accept the fact that these items need to be reduced,” Hon. Saho said.
Ultimately, 26 members voted to retain the D66 million allocation, 9 voted against it, and 3 members abstained from voting.