FACT-CHECK: Did the Judiciary Fail to Attend a Scheduled National Assembly Scrutiny?

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After the exchange of press releases, a meeting between the FPAC and the Judiciary provided the perfect opportunity to clarify the reasons for the failed meeting (Screen grab photo by Yusef Taylor)

By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT

The Gambia’s Judiciary Service and the National Assembly’s Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) were at loggerheads over the submission of the Judiciary’s audited accounts after a scheduled April 18, 2024 didn’t hold.

The Judiciary was to submit its Annual Activity Report and Audited Financial Statements to the FPAC; however, the meeting never took place.

After an article The Point Newspaper, FPAC to send warning letter to judiciary for contempt, was published on 19 April, the Judiciary responded with a press release on the same day which was  published by the same medium on April 22, 2024.

Claim:

The first claim highlighted by the Judiciary’s statement of 19th April states that “contrary to the assertions made in the aforementioned publication, the Judiciary wishes to state that the allegations of failure to submit financial reports of the Judiciary and failure to attend a meeting with the Finance and Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly scheduled for 18th April 2024 are totally inaccurate”.

In the same statement, the Judiciary said that “it is essential to clarify that the meeting between the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) and the Judiciary indicated 24th April 2024 in the schedule. Therefore, any allegation of failure to attend on the part of the Judiciary is unfounded”.

On April 24, the FPAC held a consultation meeting with the National Audit Office (NAO) to address the failure of the Judiciary to attend the meeting and to submit its audited accounts.

Fact-check:

According to the FPAC’s response, the Judiciary “was summoned through a letter dated 8th April 2024, with Ref. No. ME 28/91/02/X (150), and addressed to the Judicial Secretary, along with the Meeting Schedule of the FPAC for April and May 2024. Through this letter, the Judicature was scheduled to appear on Thursday, 18th April 2024 to submit and present its annual Activity Reports and audited Financial Statements, and not on 24th April 2024 as alleged by the Judicial Secretary in his press release”.

Two days after the exchange of press releases, the meeting provided the perfect opportunity to clarify the reasons for the failed meeting. At that meeting, the Judicial Secretary, Abdou Conteh, reiterated that FPAC’s invitation letter included a schedule which indicated a meeting for the 24th instead of the 18th April, 2024. In response, FPAC’s Chairperson, Hon. Alhagie S. Darbo of Brikama North Constituency, requested for evidence.

Conteh was compelled to submit the said letter and it was established that the schedule actually indicates 18thApril and not 24th April 2024. The Financial Controller for the Judicial Service eventually apologised for failing to attend the meeting, and Conteh said that “as far as I’m concerned the matter has been resolved”.

FPAC-Schedule-April-May-2024
A screen grab of FPAC’s meeting schedule for April and May 2024 shows the Gambia Judiciary was to appear before it on Thursday, 18th April (Photo by Yusef Taylor).

Verdict: During the FPAC meeting with the Judiciary and the NAO, it was established that the Judiciary failed to make the meeting after numerous communications with the Clerk of the FPAC. This means that the failure to attend the meeting was down to the Judiciary.

The Judiciary Service statement that they did not fail to attend the FPAC meeting dated 18th April 2024 is therefore FALSE.

The Judiciary’s Financial Controller apologised to the FPAC for failing to attend the aforesaid meeting on 24th April 2024 and committed to submitting their Financial Statements for Auditing to the National Audit Office by September 2024.

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