Managing Directors, Directors, Chief Executive Officers, and board members of Public enterprises and agencies on Tuesday converged at the Chambers of the National Assembly of The Gambia for the annual pre-session briefing on the forthcoming 2013 Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committees (PAC/PEC) Joint Session.The session will, among others, consider the Auditor General's report on the audited accounts of the central government for the years 2008, 2009, and 2010 and the annual activity reports, and audited financial statements of all public enterprises and agencies of the Gambia government.
Delivering his policy statement, Honourable Abdoulie Bojang, speaker of the National Assembly, informed the gathering that the 2013 PAC/PEC Session shall commence on 7th October 2013 and ends on 31st January 2014.
Speaker Bojang reiterated that the primary objective and purpose of the exercise, which is constitutional, is to carry out lawful oversight over public enterprises and agencies and the public services.
"As peoples' representative, we are here to ensure that the government of The Gambia and its public services, institutions, enterprises, and agencies are all financially, socially, and politically accountable to the tax-payers of The Gambia through their elected representatives in the National Assembly."
According to Honourable Bojang, the exercise is accordance with the mandate given to the National Assembly under Section 102 (a) and (c), Section 109 (1) (b), Section 109 (2) (a) (b) of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia and Section 77 (2) of the Standing Orders of the National Assembly of The Gambia.
He informed the heads of enterprise and agencies that the 2012 joint session and indeed all previous years' joint sessions noted with concern the general lack of preparedness of some public enterprises and agencies in complying and conforming with statutory parliamentary standards and best practices of submission.
"Our records revealed that up to 50% of all public enterprises/agencies could not comply or conform to the basics and the schedule of the PAC/PEC without having to request for rescheduling or deferrals, which hindered the smooth operations of the joint session"
While reminding the gathering that all must submit their annual activity report and audited financial statements to the Clerk of the National Assembly on or before 30th September 2013 or in any case seven (7) working days before their appearance, Speaker Bojang warned that appearance before the Joint Session must be seen as a process, by which the "highest oversight authority of the Republic" shall hold the managements of public enterprises/agencies accountable for the actions and decisions they have made in the management of public resources.
"It should be seen as a forum where good management and best practices are recognised and rewarded, while bad management is appropriately sanctioned."
On the procedure for the Joint Session, Hon. Bojang took the opportunity to clarify that adoption of reports and audited financial statements means minimum performance levels of admissibility of reports and accounts for consideration and, as he put it, "we are not out to witch-hunt anybody, nor are we out to flatter or sing praises to anyone. Rather it is meant to ensure transparency, probity and accountability in all our public institutions, to hold the heads of those institutions accountable for their actions, and also to ensure that our public enterprises and agencies deliver the desired services to the general public in an effective and efficient manner."
While "recognising and acknowledging the tremendous support given to the Joint Committee by President Yahya Jammeh", he said "the government is not only acclaimed for resourcing the work of legislative oversight and scrutiny, but more-so for swiftly and decisively taking appropriate actions on PAC/PEC Reports".
He also used the opportunity to thank the public and development partners for their continuous support and collaboration in strengthening the parliamentary institutions, through capacity building projects aimed at developing the human resource capabilities of the National Assembly, particularly that of the Public Accounts Committee.
Speaker Bojang said the Authority of the National Assembly has approved that The Gambia Standards Bureau, Gambia National Lottery, Gambia National Petroleum Company, National Enterprise Development Initiative, Gambia Growth and Competitiveness Project, Agency for Trafficking in Persons, Gambia Human Rights Commission, Gambia Anti-Corruption Commission, Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital, Farafenni General Hospital, Bansang Hospital, Sulayman Junkung Hospital in Bwiam, and Serrekunda Hospital be added to the list of the 2013 Joint Session.
He concluded by urging the heads of public enterprises and agencies to include in theit reports: "an update on the 2012 PAC/PEC Reports, which must be provided; a comprehensive list of current staff payroll, and a comprehensive list of all staff undergoing training, either local or overseas; with or without study leave with salary, date of appointment, date of commencement of study leave, return day and source of sponsorship".
The briefing, which was also attended by National Assembly members and subject matter specialists wrapped-up with a question-and-answer session in order to clarify certain issues.