Also in this roundup...
- Gambia security officer allegedly involved in drug deal
- NYSS says government subvention not encouraging
- Gambia Competition Commission decries ‘insufficient funding’ from government
NRA asked to account for D85 million meant for road maintenance
The National Roads Authority (NRA) must explain how or where it spent some D85 million which was meant to be spent on road maintenance.
The NRA, on October 4, 2012, appeared before the National Assembly select committees responsible for scrutinizing the performance and financial status of government institution, the Public Accounts and Public Enterprise Committees (PAC/PEC).
The Committees doubts the credibility and feasibility of the reports submitted to it by the NRA, which they said contains numerous unanswered questions.
“I don't think it is feasible for us to adopt the reports because more than 53 questions directed by the honorable members were not substantially answered satisfactorily,” stressed Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, the Speaker of the National Assembly.
Bojang exhorted the management and board of NRA to rework on the report to provide answers to the questions raised by the select committees.
According to Hon. Lamin K Jammeh, member for Illiasa constituency, D100 million was requested for road maintenance for the year (2011) but the report indicates only D15 million was spent.
“So where is the remaining D85 million? That is a question that needs to be answered by the NRA,” Hon Jammeh said.
The NRA had been blamed by lawmakers in the last adjournment debate of September 25, 2012, for its un-fancied work in Banjul.
"The joint committee had told NRA to build quality roads and not to build many roads without any quality. We have to know the realities on the ground before coming with designing road projects,” stressed Hon. Alhagie Sillah, member for Banjul North constituency.
He lamented the poor conditions of the sewage and drainage systems in the capital, and calls for a multilateral approach to resolve the dilemma by involving stakeholders into the show.
Meanwhile, the outspoken member for Kombo Central constituency, Hon. Buba Ayi Sanneh, was not convinced with the response of the NRA officials about the “ramshackle” conditions of roads contracted by the institution.
“Something need to been done,” Hon. Seedy Njie, a nominated member, demanded. “All the roads are affected; I don't see any road in the country that lasted for more than 5 years. What is NRA doing?”
Mr. Abdoulie Camara, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works Construction and Infrastructure, tried to explain to the joint committee the NRA’s “numerous constraints.” The greatest of which is “financial,” he said.
He blamed the deplorable conditions of roads on heavy duty vehicles plying Gambia-Senegal, suggesting the need for parliament’s support for legislation on the issue.
Mr. Momodou Senghore, acting Managing Director NRA, recommended for the Road Transport Policy to introduce “road user charges” to enhance the road fund, which he believes would address the present maintenance backlog.
He also corroborated the permanent secretary’s concerns for control of vehicle overload to avoid premature failure of road pavements.
Mr. Senghore also highlighted the steady increase of recruitment in the institution for more technical staff during the period under review and also mentions the need to focus on road maintenance to ensure investments in the road sector are fully protected.
“80 percent of the primary road network would have been upgraded to bituminous standard when the Basse-Vellingara road project is completed in 2013,” he projected.
The NRA’s activities mainly involve monitoring and supervision of development and road maintenance projects.
Gambia security officer allegedly involved in drug deal
The police in Banjul have brought criminal charges against Musa B. Sanneh, a member of the President Yahya Jammeh-established joint-security organisation, Operation Bulldozer.
Operation Bulldozer, a brain-child of the Gambian leader, was setup in May 2012 for what Yahya Jammeh said was meant to “clean the country of criminals.”
Sanneh, a soldier, who is accused of selling heroin, a prohibited drug, to one Vesna Faye Milosavljevic at the tune of D12, 700, made his second appearance at the Kanifing Municipality Magistrates’ Court on October 8, 2012.
He is standing trial on three charges - abuse of office, corrupt practices, and destroying evidence.
Sanneh, who is being represented by Counsel Moses B. Johnson Richards, has denied the charges.
However, the case could not proceed on Monday following the absence of the defence counsel.
The Presiding Magistrate, Sheriff B. Tabally, warned that the court shall discharge the case if the defence counsel fails to appear in the next adjourned date of 15 October, 2012. The police prosecutor in the case is Chief Inspector Jammeh.
Count one: Abuse of office contrary to section 90 sub-section 2 of the criminal code. The particulars of the offence states that Musa B Sanneh, on or about 11th August 2012 at Manjai Kunda in the Kanifing Municipality of The Republic of The Gambia, being employ to the public service of The Gambia, sold drug (Heroine) to Vesna Faye Milosavljevic for the purpose of gaining money which he knows or have reasons to believe is against the functions of his office.
Count two: Corrupt practice contrary to section 360 of the criminal code. The particulars of the offence has it that Musa B Sanneh, on or about 11th August 2012 a Manjai Kunda within the Kanifing Municipality of the Republic of The Gambia being employ in the public service of The Gambia, received twelve thousand and seven hundred Dalasis (D12, 700) from Vesna Faye Milosavljevic being the proceed of drugs (Heroine) that he (Sanneh) gave to Faye Milosavljevic thereby committed an offence.
Count three: Destroy of evidence contrary to section 101 of the criminal code. The particulars of the offence indicates that at the Bulldozer base in Banjul Sanneh unlawfully took drugs (Heroine) from the exhibits store and sold it to Vesna Faye Milosavljevic which he know to be exhibits and thereby committed an offence.
NYSS says government subvention not encouraging
The National Youth Service Scheme (NYSS), a government-established skills training center, which depends entirely on monthly government subvention, has said the way that the government is paying these subventions is least encouraging.
This was disclosed by NYSS’s Accountant, Mr. Edward B. Wright, in his financial report to the Public Account and Public Enterprise Committees (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly on October 8, 2012.
“Most of the time NYSS financed its operations through bank overdrafts and this make it impossible to remit the tax deduction from staff to Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) because banks always refuse to honor such payments,” Mr Wright said on Monday.
According to him, when NYSS subvention is suppressed or underpaid it reflects directly on the budgeted activities and this resulted in the significant variances.
“NYSS will liaise with Ministry of Youth and Sports, and Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs forthwith to remit the arrears outstanding to GRA with immediate effect,” he said.
Despite its financial predicament, the NYSS is rated as “non-compliance” with the dictates of the Gambia Public Procurement Authority, GPPA Act.
“NYSS did not submit any procurement plans to the GPPA,” Mr. Ibraima Sanyang, a senior compliance officer of the GPPA has revealed.
He also revealed the NYSS is also awarding contracts to people who are not registered with GPPA.
The two giant committees of the National Assembly, PAC/PEC, has unanimously decided to defer the supposed scrutiny of NYSS’s annual activity and audited financial reports till further notice owing to the “obvious non inclusion of its 2011 activities and financial spending”.
The NYSS was asked to meet the Assembly Clerk for a possible rescheduled of its appearance before the “scrutinizing committees.”
The skill center, represented by ex-executive director and now deputy permanent secretary ministry of youths and sport, Mr. Musa Mbye only presented the 2009 and 2010 activity and financial reports.
“I am pleased to report that the NYSS is still on course with its mandate to provide requisite skills for self-employment or creating employment opportunities, in helping the acquisition of discipline minds, morally strong and development-orientated young people,” Mr Mbye said.
He said the aim of the report is to highlight key activities conducted within the framework of NYSS Action Plan 2010. It covers management and staff matters, matters on corps members, micro credit delivery and youth employment creation.
The mandate to render annual reports on activities of the NYSS is in accordance with Section 197 of the Constitution of The Gambia and the NYSS Act of 1999.
Gambia Competition Commission decries ‘insufficient funding’ from government
The executive secretary of the Gambia Competition Commission (GCC), has lamented the insufficient funding given to his institution by the government for the year 2011.
Mr. Amadou Ceesay said the budget submitted by the Commission to The Gambia government to enable it operate efficiently and effectively in the year 2011 was D25 million. “But only a paltry D7.9 million was given,” he lamented.
“This amount was only able to cover the Commission’s administrative expenses while the Commission had to seek financial and material support from international organizations, which were disposed to supporting newly-established, fledgling and under-funded institutions like ours (the GCC) to realize our planned activities,” he revealed.
However, he acknowledged the GCC has received financial support from various institutions like the European Union through its TradeCom project, the Small States Network for Enterprise Development (SSNED), the African Competition Forum (ACF), and International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
Mr. Ceesay was presenting the 2011 financial report of the GCC to the joint session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committees (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly on October 3, 2012.
The PAC/PEC adopted the reports of the GCC and commended Commission for its “stable annual activity and audited financial reports.” They noted that the reports are “binding and brilliant.”
The primary responsibility of the GCC is to ensure that anti-competitive practices in the Gambia economy do not exist or are minimized. This, it does through the investigation of possible anti-competitive behaviour by enterprises.
The GCC Act of 2007 empowers the Commission, which was setup in 2009, to compel persons and business enterprises to furnish necessary information it may require, and to intervene and remedy anti-competitive practices where necessary.
The Act prohibits the following anti-competitive practices: collusive agreements including bid rigging, price fixing, market sharing, abuse of monopoly situation, and mergers which substantially lessen competition etc.
Mr. Amadou Ceesay said: “Where businesses have been found to be deliberately and negligently colluding to fix or share markets, the Commission can impose fines.
Earlier on, GCC board chairperson, Alhagie T.S.A. Njie, in his activity report noted the first two years of existence of the GCC - 2009 and 2010, were devoted mainly to institution building, processes involving accession and suitable accommodation for the staff and envisage activities that would be taking place.
He noted they have managed to register significant developments during this period. “I am certain that members (of the National Assembly) are also fully aware that the public is beginning to appreciate the benefits that can be derived from effective competition and law enforcement,” he claimed.
“Gambia is growing forward and the citizens are getting poorer and poorer,” argues Hon. Alhagie Sillah, National Assembly Member for Banjul North. “I think the GCC should sit and see how best they can deal with foreign investors for the interest of the citizens.”
He claimed that investors coming into the country to invest are taking away the whole money back to their various countries.
Hon. Bafaye Saidykhan, National Assembly Member for Jarra East agreed. He urges the GCC and the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) to work together to make sure local and international investors register with the GCC and follow the rules and regulations.
Hon. Pa Malick Ceesay, member for Lower Solumn also agreed. He even suggested for GCC and GPPA to create a level marketplace where local and international businesses can engage in healthy competition.
“If the market playing field is not level, it will be difficult for others especially our local investors to compete. Our local investors should be given priority to encourage them to compete with foreign investors in the country,” he said.
In 2011, the GCC board charged the Secretariat to undertake several activities as a way of promoting and maintaining competition in The Gambia, curbing practices that have appreciably adverse effects on competition, and creating a level playing field within which business can thrive in a liberal and competitive market.
The board also tasked the secretariat to elaborate a three-year strategic plan 2012-2014; to raise the visibility of the Commission and make the public more aware of its existence and functions; to pursue strategies and explore opportunities that would enhance the capacity of staff to carry out the Commission’s mandate with utmost efficiency and effectiveness; and to build the institution’s financial resource-base to enable it carry out its functions expeditiously and effectively.
Stories Written By Modou S. Joof
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These entries were first published on the Banjul-based privately-owned Marketplace Business newspaper edition of October 15-19, 2012.
The stories are also published on the Gambia News Online on October 15.