By Edrissa Jallow, @EdrissaJallow10
The Chairperson of Parliament’s Public Enterprises Committee (PEC), Hon Lamin J Sanneh has revealed to Gambia Parliamentary Newsletter (GPN) that two Committees will collaborate to investigate the alleged “fraud and theft” of millions of dalasis by Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) staff.
However, Parliament has announced that Parliamentary Committee meetings due to take place in May 2023 will be suspended which will further delay the start of the investigation.
It all started back in June 2022 when a petition letter filed at the Office of the Clerk by Tijan Bah and Muhammed L Darboe, alleging that earlier in 2022 “several staffers of the GPA were involved in massive theft and fraud leading to the disappearance of Millions of Dalasi”.
A month later, the duo were invited before Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee to substantiate their allegations that “employees at the Rating Unit were allegedly issuing fake receipts, undercutting fees, and collecting bribes and inducements. Between 2020 to 2022, the alleged fraudsters were stealing D4 million per week through these corrupt practices”.
In furtherance of the petition raised, the Chairperson of the Public Petitions Committee, Hon Suwaibou Touray tabled the report before the plenary on 27th March 2023 after hearing the petitioners and the Management of the GPA.
Parliament then adopted the report without any debate or amendments which sanctioned further “investigations on the allegations of corruption at the GPA by [Parliament’s] Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) and the Public Enterprise Committee (PEC) for further engagement with the National Audit Office (NAO) and GPA Management”.
To find out what has been done one month after the report was issued, our reporter conducted an exclusive interview with the Chairperson of Parliament’s PEC, Hon Lamin J Sanneh. The Hon Member informed our medium that their investigation will be jointly conducted with FPAC and the two committees will “sit over the issue” however, they were facing challenges to start immediately.
“We (PEC) are not sitting over the issue because what happens [is] due to some constraints beyond our control we are unable to embark on Committee operations,” said Chairperson Sanneh.
Hon Sanneh revealed that some of his colleague Parliamentarians “will be going out [and] some would be campaigning, the good number will be going out [of the country]… so you cannot invite people here when you don’t [have] a quorum, it doesn’t tell well”.
A press release from the National Assembly revealed that “the suspension [Committee Sittings for May] is informed by the fact that, aside from some Honourable Members travelling to attend to statutory meetings of the Pan African Parliament and ECOWAS Parliament respectively, most of the National Assembly Members are scheduled to travel to the People’s Republic of China on a capacity building training”.
Hon Sanneh is also a member of Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee. From his recollection, he recalled that “the petitioners were demanding the publication of that investigation. So like when we [Petition Committee] went through and we’re made to understand some of these things are at the core level. So laying our report will require FPAC and PEC to have a joint committee and deal with this issue which is not yet done as far as we are concerned”.
Another recommendation of the Petition Committee dictates “that the ongoing investigations by the NAO and the Office of the Inspector General of Police be completed swiftly [to enable them to] report back to FPAC and PEC, and publish these reports”.
IGP: Suspects Will Be Duly Processed Once the Final Audit Report is Submitted
According to the Point Newspaper publication dated Tuesday 3rd January 2023, a press release from the Gambia Police Force (GPF) highlights that the alleged GPA’s revenue scandal “was forwarded to the IGP for further police investigation” and promises to take action against anyone found wanting.
The release further claims that “all managers and subordinate staff within the relevant units in the traffic department having responsibility in the delivery processes have been placed on interdiction pending the outcome of the Audit”.
“The Final Report covering the period Jan 2019 to December 2021 is expected to be submitted by the NAO soon and will determine the next appropriate steps for those found wanting…the alleged culprits will be duly processed once the final Audit report is submitted,” the release says.
Our reporter has contacted the office of the Police PRO on several occasions to learn more about the progress of their investigations but received no response. On Tuesday 25th April 2023, our reporter contacted the office again twice and he is informed that the PRO is yet to be in office.
Meanwhile, Gainako also contacted the NAO Director of Communications, Binta Touray to get an update on the progress of the Audit investigation on the GPA. In response, she revealed that the investigation is progressing but is “still not finalized and we (NAO) are unable to share any additional information at this time pending finalization”.