Was President elect Barrow’s response to a Malagen question entirely correct?

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President Elect, Adama Barrow looking ahead

Claim: the Auditor General’s office ONLY recommended that missing diplomatic passport books should be cancelled

Source: President elect Adama Barrow

Verdict: false

By Mustapha K Darboe

President Elect, Adama Barrow looking ahead. Photo Creidt: Vanguard

On December 7, president elect Adama Barrow faced journalists at State House for the first time since his press conference in August 2018. It was also his first press conference since winning the December 4 presidential elections with a 53% margin.

During the interview (50:14), the Malagen journalist asked if Barrow would, as recommended by the Auditor General, cancel the diplomatic passports in circulation and issue new ones.

In 2017, when Barrow took over, he has found 271 diplomatic passports in circulation. In 2019, Barrow administration issued 1,175 diplomatic passports.

Aside from the 1,175 diplomatic passport books that were formally issued, another 1959 diplomatic passports books and 3,436 service passports went missing at the Foreign Ministry.

Claim

In an interview with journalists, the president elect Barrow said the Auditor General’s (AG) office ONLY recommended that diplomatic passport books that were missing should be cancelled. Barrow was responding to a Malagen question which suggested that the AG recommended for the diplomatic passports to be cancelled and new ones issued.

“That was not the recommendation. The recommendation was that the passports that were MISSING should be cancelled,” said Barrow.

Fact check

It is established by the Auditor General’s investigations that 1959 diplomatic passports books and 3,436 service passports went missing at the Foreign Ministry. A police investigation into the matter later found that these passports were being printed and sold to various people by a Nigerian called Michael Lapido.

However, a staggering 1,175 diplomatic passport books were officially issued by the Barrow administration. The diplomatic passport books which were formally issued were part of the Auditor General’s (AG) investigations.

The AG has found that at least 379 diplomatic passports were issued to ineligible holders. Below is the only category, according to Foreign Ministry, eligible to hold the diplomatic passport:

On page 29 of its audit report, the AG recommended: “The Government should ensure that all illegal passports during the period under reviewed are RECALLED.”

On page 23 of its audit report, the AG recommended: “Passports issued without the relevant supporting documents should be RECALLED and SURRENDERED as they are considered to be ILLEGAL.”

On page 16 of its audit report, the AG recommended: “Effort should be made to REPOSSESS these passports from the INELIGIBLE HOLDERS and sanction those officials responsible for their issue.”

On page 25 of its audit report, the AG recommended: “We recommend that individuals issued with diplomatic passports designated as Goodwill Ambassadors, Ambassador-at-Large and Honorary Consul are NULLIFIED pending the establishment of formal criteria or policy by Government.

“In addition, the relevant authorities should work closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in ensuring that all ambassadors-at-large, goodwill ambassadors and honorary consuls provide periodic reports of their activities including achievements to Government of the Gambia. This should be used as a basis to maintain or discontinue engaging such individuals in holding such positions/designation on behalf Government.”

Conclusion:

It is true that the Malagen’s claim that the AG recommended for all diplomatic passports to be cancelled is untrue. However, the AG did not only recommend for missing diplomatic and service passport books to be cancelled, it also recommended for passports issued without supporting documents or those issued illegally or to ineligible individuals to be RECALLED.

Verdict: the claim is false

 

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Sang Mendy, managing director of the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJAC), is by default the head of Fact Check Gambia. Sang holds a BA in Journalism and Digital Media from the University of The Gambia. He also holds an Advanced Diploma in Mass Communication and a Higher Teachers Certificate. Prior to being the manager, he worked as a journalism trainer and a radio producer. Sang spends his spare time mentoring the young.

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