The Gambia Supreme Court has ruled as unlawful a multi-million dalasis loan scheme for parliamentarians.

The case challenging the legality of the loan scheme was brought to the court by two civil society groups, Gambia Participates and Centre for Research and Policy Development.

The groups filed the lawsuit on December 28 asking the court to declare the amendment done by the National Assembly to the budget and the inclusion of D54.4 million loan scheme for lawmakers as unlawful “in contravention of Sections 151, 152 and 155 of the Constitution and a violation of Section 47 of the Public Finance Act, 2014”.

The groups also wanted a declaration that the approval of the annual estimates of revenue and expenditure for the year 2021 with the inclusion of the sum of D54.4 million as loan to National Assembly Members and staff of the National Assembly service was a ‘usurpation’ of the powers given to the President in Section 152 of the Constitution and a violation of Clause 70 of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly.

The Court on Tuesday agreed with the group and struck down the amended legislation for the loan scheme and ordered that it should be removed from the 2021 budget.

Justice Gibril Semega Janneh said the Constitution “does not accord the National Assembly the power to create a new budget line in the estimates. The National Assembly cannot pass a resolution creating its own budget line.

The judge said the power to create a new budget line is vested in the President. “Any motion or resolution seeking to create a new budget must be brought by the Executive and not the National Assembly.”

The civil society groups welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling and said taxpayers’ money has been saved from improper use.

In a statement the activists said: “[The] Gambia, today we have saved you D54.4 million. In December 2020, in a joint suit with CRPD we took the National Assembly of the Gambia to court for creating a loan scheme for themselves in the 2021 budget. 

“Today the Supreme Court has declared the action unlawful and called for the removal of the said amount from the 2021 budget.”

The unpopular MP loan scheme was the brainchild of Nominated Member of Parliament Ya Kumba Jaiteh.  She claimed that MPs were entitled to award themselves a loan scheme. Gambians from all walks of life condemned her actions and said that it was a waste of public money.

Reporting by Adama Makasuba

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