By Kexx Sanneh,
NAWEC APPEARS BEFORE THE PUBLIC ENTERPRISES COMMITTEE OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY UNDER THE CHAIRMANSHIP OF HON. HALIFA SALLAH
The Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly Hon. Halifa Sallah, in opening the meeting with the Management of the National Water and Electricity Company, (NAWEC), Subject matter specialist and the Auditor General and senior staff of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs said it is reported that a quorum exists for the public enterprises to commence business. He welcomes everyone to this session and began by thanking the invited institutions and the subject matter specialists and other aids who were present those who are independent in their activities.
The following authorities were present who introduced themselves.
- Hon. Halifa Sallah, Serekunda constituency and the chair of the committee
- Hon. Alagie Jawara, Lower Badibu and the Vice-chair of the committee,
- Hon.Modou Camara, Foni Bintang Karanai reporter to the committee,
- Hon.Muhammed Magassy, the member for Basse to the committee
- Hon.Salif Jawo for Jokadu and member of the committee,
- The Auditor General Mr Touray,
- Mr Nani Juwara, Deputy Managing Director, Nawec,
- Baba Fatajo, Managing Director Nawec,
- Amah S. Cham, finance director Nawec, MomodouTapha Taal, subject matter specialist and the media.
The NAWEC Board of Directors was not present and the Chair inquired whether there is any explanation for their lack of representation.
Mr Nani Juwara, deputy Managing Director NAWEC, said they had got in touch with their Board Chairperson but unfortunately it was very late and he could not attend due to a prior engagement with his partners. He apologized for his absence.
Honourable Hon. Halifa Sallah then said they would treat that matter later because this is the starting point of their work and hopefully through this interaction, they would be able to build the relationship that is necessary to facilitate the work.
Chairperson Halifa Sallah informed that “We left yesterday after a request was made by NAWEC for more time in order to be able to submit its documents and we are gathered here today by engaging subject matter specialist, so that we can interact and see the implication of maintaining the arrears in the submission of statements of accounts and activities of public enterprises.
The Public enterprise committee is established by the National Assembly as a constitutional requirement to oversee the affairs of public enterprises whose nature and character is fully defined under section 175 sub-section 1 of the constitution and section 2 of the Public Enterprises Act.
In the constitution, enterprise means any body corporate or other body or institute wholly owned or controlled by the government, under the Public Enterprises Act, Public Enterprise means corporation or any company whose equity is wholly owned by the government or partially owned by the government together with another government institution or wholly owned by a government institution, said Halifa Sallah, Chairperson of the PAC.
“The origin of the committee needs to be known by those appearing before it. According to section 109 of the constitution, the National Assembly shall appoint Public Appointments Standing Committee, Finance and Public Standing Committee, Standing Committee on Privileges, a Standing Committee on Defense and such other Standing or other Committees as it considers necessary for the exercise of its functions.” He went on to say that The provision asked that committees may be appointed to investigate or inquire into the activities of ministries or departments of the government and such investigations or inquiry may extend to the making of proposals for legislation or investigate any matter of public importance.
The powers of the committees are clearly stipulated under section 109 of the constitution subsection 3, said Sallah and that for the propose of effectively performing its functions, each committee shall have all the powers, rights and privileges as are vested in the High court as in a trial in respect of enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise compelling the production of documents, and the issue of commission or request to examine witnesses abroad.
Citing Section 110, Hon. Sallah asserts that any act or omission that obstructs or impedes the National Assembly in the performance of its function or obstructs of impedes any member or officer of the National Assembly in the discharge of his or her duties or affronts the dignity of the national assembly shall be a contempt of the national assembly and in addition to any liability in respect thereof under the criminal law the offender shall be liable to reprimand or admonition by the national assembly and if the offender is a member of the national assembly, suspension or expulsion from the national assembly.
In essence, he said, these are powers that the committee would never want to exercise in any way to compel a witness to appear before it. The origin of the Public Enterprise committee evolves from section 175 subsection 4 of the 1997 Constitution which states that: “within six months of the coming into force of this constitution an act of the National Assembly shall establish a committee to monitor the operations of public enterprises and shall prescribe the manner in which such enterprises shall be accountable to the national assembly and shall conduct their affairs in order to promote efficiency, transparency and probity in all their undertakings.”
The Public Enterprises Act, and the PAC, and other acts connected therewith provide for the accountability of public enterprises to the National Assembly. Thus, he said the Public enterprise committee is established in pursuance of standing order centering on national assembly to monitor the operations of Public enterprises and to hold them accountable to the national assembly in the conduct of their affairs in other to promote efficiency, transparency and probity in all their under takings aimed at achieving the objectives highlighted in the public enterprise act and the relevant legislation connected thereof, the committee has powers to call for persons, per reports and records, invite expert opinion in the process of its monitoring investigation, and general performance of its oversight.
“The Work Plan of the public enterprise committee is to commence with the fact that its monitoring activities must be based on the requirement of the law and the standards of proper practices known to specialists in public enterprise monitoring, analysis and evaluation of performance. Hence findings have to be made regarding the requirement of the law and standard of proper practice to be relied on to conduct our monitoring activities. He said they’ve therefore engaged the Directorate of the Public Private Partnership and Public Enterprises of the Ministry of Finance and received a diagnostic report of the state of public enterprises and the physical risks related to which monitoring process and general oversight.
They’ve also alerted their minds to the Constitution and other legal requirements providing the architecture for the operation of and management of public management enterprise which the committee is to rely on to hold them accountable and provide an effective remedy. “Constitutional guidelines have been looked at, section 175 sub-sections 2 indicates, “the members of the Board of Directors or other governing bodies of Pubic enterprise shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the Public Service Commission and shall be selected amongst persons of integrity, competence and maturity of judgment,” said Sallah. And added that a member of the National Assembly, holder of a political office or any office of a political party shall not be qualified to be appointed to the Board of directors or other governing bodies of Public enterprise.
On the issue of accountability, section 75 subsections 5 of the constitution states, “a public enterprise shall within three months of the end of its financial year submit an annual report to the National Assembly on it’s business and operations during the preceding year provided the appropriate committee of the national assembly may extend the time for the submission of such report” He said that is why they are holding this session on that day because of the request for a postponement of submission.
He added that Section 40 of the Public Enterprise Act states: “the Board of directors”, this is to the board of directors, that it is not talking of the management, shall not later than two months after the end of the financial year transmit to the minister a copy of the report of the corporation activities, a copy of the profit and loss account, a copy of the balance sheet, a report by such Board on the work of the corporation for the period for which the profit and loss account have been made of.
The Chair of the Public Accounts Committee of the Gambia National Assembly Hon. Halifa Sallah went on to explain how they should proceed with their scrutiny and cited the role of the Finance minister.
The minister he said shall pose a copy of all the documents specified in the subsection to be laid before the National Assembly not later than three months after the end of the financial year. “These documents are to be forwarded to the Public enterprise committee for review, investigation, observation and recommendation for legislative institutional or operational reforms if necessary.”
Furthermore, he said section 39 of the Public Order Act states” “the accounts of the said corporation shall be audited annually by the Auditor General, the audited accounts of a public enterprise shall form part of the annual general and auditor general’s report over all annual reports to the National Assembly”.
The auditor general he said shall examine the accounts of the corporation and furnish a report, stating whether he or she has not obtained all the information and explanations required by him or her and whether the balance sheet and the account referred to the report are corporately drawn up so as to exhibit a true and fair view of the affairs of the corporation.
The Auditor General shall transmit the audit report together with his or her comments to such report to the Board of Directors or the National Assembly. This report of the Auditor General should find its way to the public accounts committee and public enterprise committee for the year.
Hon. Sallah said the Committee has commenced the first phase of its work; it is taking on board the review of the corporate activities of NAWEC, GPA and PURA in the first phase; that it is mindful of diagnostic report given by the Directorate of the Public Enterprises partnership and the public enterprises which underscores the importance of thirteen public enterprises which constitute the backbone of the sector and will prioritize them accordingly in their report. “We have started working in earnest by inviting the NAWEC board of directors to present a report of the corporation’s activities for the 2016 financial year, a copy of its profit and loss account, a copy of the balance sheet, a report of the board on the corporation for the period for which the profit and loss account and the balance sheet are being made of, said Hon. Sallah. He said the management of NAWEC, comprising the Managing Director, the Deputy and the Financial Director, did appear on behalf of the company and had indicated that they have not completed their report for 2015, and would need time to remedy the arrears in providing the committee with the document required.
The Committee retired with its specialist to review the risks involved in condoning arrears in the submission of annual reports of the activities and financial statement of public enterprises and came to the decision that the Board of Directors and the external auditors of NAWEC and the Auditor General should be present in their next meeting, so that they would explain what gives rise to arrears in presenting annual reports of corporation activities and finances, the implication of such lapses in terms of impeding the timely provision of remedies to activities with a regards to accountability, profitability, viability and explore measures to prevent it’s occurrence.
In essence he said this is why they are here today, and ‘I would want to close our own presentation by calling on the director of directorates of these public enterprises to give us an idea, because he made a presentation of what it means to have a delayed submission of activity report of corporation as well as their financial stature. He ended his comment.
To be continued