EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, THE GAMBIA: The Right 2 Know, in conjunction with the Gambia Press Union have urged The Government of The Gambia to make the ‘Janneh Commission’ report accessible for public consumption.
In a joint letter addressed to the Attorney General & Minister of Justice, and Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure, the two bodies said their request is meant for government “to do the right and legal thing”.
“We are making the demand for the public to be granted unfettered access to a report that is of legitimate public interest and was financed by the public purse, through tax payers’ money”, they said.
The Commission of Inquiry into Financial Dealings of the administration of former President Yahya Jammeh whose report was launched together with government White Paper in September, exposed a high level of corruption committed by public servants in positions of trust including exiled former president who is guilty of embezzlement of over one billion dalasi.
This coalition expressed anger for restriction of information of a commission that cost the public at least 51 million dalasi. “We are therefore appalled by the government’s refusal to make the report accessible to the public in whose name this very inquiry was established.”
“Not only did the Janneh Commission cost us, the public, at least D51 Million, excluding the sitting allowances of the Commissioners and 58 staffers of the Commission. It overshot its initial lifespan eight times over- from the initial 90 to almost 730 days; in which time they examined 253 witness testimonies, almost all of whom testified in full public view, which has now culminated into a colossal nine volume document”, the letter stated.
During the publication of the report at the Ministry of Justice, the Minister of Information and Communication Infrastructure said there were limited copies available of the documents and that the public could access the nine volumes of the commission report and the government White Paper on sale at the Gambia Printing and Publishing Cooperation.
Eye Africa was reliably informed that a copy of the final report of commission will cost five thousand and seven hundred dalasi, while the White Paper costs six hundred dalasi.
The Right 2 Know, and Gambia Press Union said they are utterly dismayed and disappointed at government’s stance on this matter, reminding government of its legal obligation to make the Janneh Commission report accessible.
“Making it public, through hard copies that need to be sourced and paid for is irresponsible, disrespectful and cruel. The mere fact that the 1997 Constitution Commissions of Inquiry Act (section 203) Publications of Report, makes it imperative that the report must be published”, they stated.
The two organisations questioned government’s definition of publication, noting that “the mere printing of a 1,600-page Commission report and under 100-page government White Paper is insufficient, it falls far short of making the document(s) public.”
In the view of the right advocates, the Janneh Commission was in actuality, a temporal de facto anti-corruption body and that for the government to decide to place limitations in accessing its findings of a milestone document dealing with transparency and accountability issues, is unwise and falls far short of international norms and standards of best practice.