Report on The Gambia Information & Communication Technology Agency Bill 2019
Committed To The
National Assembly Select Committee on Education, Training & ICT
June 11th 2019
TABLE OF CONTENTS
In the exercise of its mandate, the select committee on Education, Training and ICT relies on section 101 (5) of the 1997 constitution as well as clause 85 (2) of our standing orders to review the Gambia Information and Communication Technology Agency Bill committed to it by the plenary and to report back to the assembly.
The methodology employed during the review of the Bill are:-
1. Evidence gathered through analysis of the Bill
2. External Consultation within the Industry
3. Review of the Communications Act 2009
1. General Formatting- It has been noted that there are no page numbers on the document and this is not best practice. Page numbers ensures easy references, which may also be linked with the various sections of the bill.
2. Bill Title- This is too general and tends to point to only the pubic service. However, the objectives and reasons relates to improving the use of technology and interoperability of systems of the government and wider Gambian society.
3. Objects and Reasons- This part of the bill, which is on the last page is not very clear and it reads: “This bill seeks to establish an autonomous agency to encourage the optimum use of information technologies business nationwide, further the advancement of technology. “
4. Interpretation- There are lots of terms in the bill that are not interpreted and this may cause some issues when it becomes law. For example, terms like Chairman, public service, Data, Government, e-Commerce, e-Government, e-Strategy, Government Infrastructure, Government service, digital economy, local content etc. may need to be interpreted as per best practice and this will help in the implementation of the objectives of the Agency.
There is also the lack of consistency in the use of the term “minister” because in the communication Act 2009, it means the minister responsible for information and communication. However, the same term in this bill means the minister responsible for Information Technology. It is important to note that if the thinking for the definition is about the future, in terms of two separate ministries (Information and Communication & Information technology as seen in other jurisdictions), then there is no issue.
5. Agency Supervision- The bill has not addressed the supervision of the Agency and we are not sure who exactly will be the supervising authority. This needs to be very clear to avoid chaos or issues in the administration and implementation of the Agency’s objectives.
6. Powers Before Functions- It is observed that the powers of the agency come before the functions of the agency and this is a bit awkward. To carry out the functions specified in the bill, the agency must get the powers to do so. Essentially, Article 6 must come before Article 5.
7. Powers Of The Agency-
a. Article 1: This is too broad and should be linked to government service delivery (e-Government Plan). Any guidelines must specifically be for government’s compliance provided that it shall not negate any existing one issued by the national regulator of the ICT (PURA).
b. Article 2: The term “Public Service” is not interpreted and this is restrictive. The Agency may only need to be empowered to facilitate, coordinate and be in charge of the implementation of government ICT related projects. Some of these may be outsourced to other bodies but the responsibilities in managing the process can rest with the agency.
c. Article 4: the Agency is not an operator and cannot be licensed as an ICT service provider. However, it can collaborate with other bodies including corporate ICT network and service providers as well as enter into partnerships for specific goods and services. Where there is a policy shift then a ministerial approval can only be premised on the advise of the regulator of the ICT sector.
d. Article 6: This article needs to be clarified because charging fees for Government-To-Government (G2G) could be difficult and in some cases not reasonable.
e. Limited Powers of the Agency- Considering the numerous functions of the agency, the powers bestowed on it are inadequate and should be further enhanced to ensure the objectives of the agency are achieved.
1. Functions of The Agency –Article 6-
a. On 6 (b), the advice should be to all ministries (should be defined in the interpretation) and not to the minister.
b. On 6 (h) and ( i) , “design, deploy and manage………..” should be subject to regulatory approval.
2. Membership of The Board-
a. Other than those by virtue of their positions in the two ministries, there are no set criteria for being a board member in terms of professional qualifications, knowledge and experience and these are the critical factors for the Agency to fulfill its mandate.
b. We are unable to see the relevance of the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Finance for being a member of the board.
c. The role of Public Service Commission in the appointment of other board members is not very clear besides these employees are not civil servants.
d. The functions of the board are very brief and there are other important responsibilities the board needs to take up.
3. Removal from the Board- There are more additional grounds for the removal of board members and these are not captured by the bill e.g. corruption, abuse of office etc.
4. Director General-
a. The roles and responsibilities of the Director General are not documented and should be different from that of the Agency.
b. The Director General does not have a tenure of office.
c. It is not clear who determines the terms and conditions of the Director Generals service.
d. The bill has not captured the oath of office and secrecy by the Director General and this is very relevant due to the nature of institution.
5. Miscellaneous Matters
a. There is no provision on secrecy and confidentiality and the agency will be dealing with lot of sensitive information on the government.
b. The issue of delegating any of the unique functions of the agency to any other organization on clear terms and conditions needs to be captured by the bill.
c. There is no mention on the usage of the common seal of the Agency and this is crucial in this electronic age.
6. Indemnity- The issue of indemnity under clause 18 does not clearly address the personal liability of a member of the board and or employee of the agency in respect of any act or omission done in good faith in the performance of his or her functions under the law.
7. Offences- The Bill is silent on offences committed directly or indirectly in the use of information in ones possession that has the potential to influence or affect the market value of any share or other security, interest before the information is made public and it uses for personal gain. Furthermore, unlawful disclosure of information from the agency is not dealt .
Based on the above observations, the committee recommends the following:
1. Relevant Additional Objects of the Agency-
a. To develop and provide guidance in the implementation of the e-Government Plan for a connected Government through improved efficiency and effectiveness of Government service delivery.
b. To accelerate The Gambia’s transition into a sustainable e-Government environment and ensure the swift realization of Government’s objective to make the ICT sector a key infrastructure of the economy.
c. To e-power people, businesses and the public sector in their active participation and utilization of various Government services.
d. To provide high quality information and communication technology services to Government through the promotion of standardization in the planning, acquisition, implementation, delivery, support and maintenance of information technology equipment and services in governance process and in government.
e. To ensure uniformity in quality, adequacy and reliability of Government information Technology usage for the citizens, people and businesses throughout The Gambia;
f. To promote cooperation, coordination and rationalization among users and providers of Information Technology at national and local levels so as to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure optimal utilization of scarce resources without limiting the creation and growth of digital economy;
g. To further the conduct, promotion and advancement of research relating to Information and communications technologies for a cost effective and sustainable Government service delivery.
2. Relevant Additional Powers of the Agency-
a. To prepare and propose an e-Government Plan including the e-Readiness strategies;
b. To monitor and assess all Information Technology related projects of the Government including the Ministries and related Departments for compliance with the approved e-Government Plan;
c. To conduct or cause to conduct regular e-Readiness surveys to ascertain the effectiveness of the e-Government Plan and the status of the utilization of information technology in Government service delivery;
d. To collaborate with corporate bodies, licensed network and service providers and or relevant institutions through partnerships or beneficial arrangements for the delivery of related goods and services for the facilitation and or enhancement of Government service delivery and or for strengthening the Agency.
e. To establish a repository of effective and workable standards in relation to information technology utilization for Government service delivery channels, and for the registration and classification of documentation related to locally developed and imported information technology solutions in Government service delivery directly or indirectly;
f. To establish a mechanism for collaboration and promotion of partnerships between various categories of users of Government service within the information technology sector;
g. To plan, coordinate, promote and cause the implementation of general education and awareness in relation to information communication technologies in The Gambia in consultation with the Ministry responsible for Education or its agencies;
h. To charge fees for services provided by the Agency.
3. Relevant Additional Functions of the Agency-
a. To provide first level technical support and advice for critical Government information technology infrastructure and systems and e-Government Plan including managing the utilization of the resources and infrastructure for centralized data centre facilities for large systems through the provision of specialized technical skills.
b. To identify and advise Government on all matters of transformations and changes for information technology development, utilization, usability, accessibility and deployment including networking, systems development, information technology security, training and support.
c. To cause a review of the Government’s e-Government plan based on results of the monitoring of trends in the utilization of information technology in both the public and private sectors;
d. To set and monitor standards for information technology planning, acquisition, implementation, delivery, support, organisation, sustenance, disposal, risk management, data protection, security and contingency planning;
e. To enforce standards for information technology hardware and software equipment procurement in all Government Ministries, departments, agencies and state owned enterprises;
f. To facilitate, coordinate and be in charge of the implementation of Government IT related projects;
g. To create and manage the national databank, its inputs and outputs;
h. To advice on and coordinate activities relating to Government’s use of electronic signature infrastructure as used in electronic transactions for government services in The Gambia;
i. To provide advice on information and communication technology project management services to the Government;
j. To provide for information management service through acting as records management facility and an information depository;
k. To provide guidance on the establishment of an infrastructure for information sharing by Government and related stakeholders;
l. To provide guidance in information technology audit services to Government;
m. To undertake and commission research as may be necessary to promote the objects of the
n. To undertake any other activity necessary for the implementation of the objects of the Agency.
o. Manage and resolve all issues relating to the “dot gm” domain and all other domain names associated with the Gambia.
p. The Agency shall push for ICT projects that serves the public interest
q. Promote the development of Education Tools and applications (smart schools).
r. Promote and lead government e-Payment solutions across all sectors of government
s. Monitor the implementation of government ICT policies.
t. Work with Social media content providers to reduce misinformation, abusive content, defamation, fake identities etc.
u. Work with service providers to implement data privacy laws, data integrity and record keeping policies for public safety and combating serious crimes.
v. Provide standards for web content, web application, office applications and databases in the public service.
w. Implement policies that would guide Cloud Service Providers (CSP) for Cloud Computing in the public sector especially where data on its citizens and government are kept.
x. Manage all government ICT employees.
4. Membership of the Board
a. There should be a set criteria for being a board member in terms of professional qualifications, knowledge and experience in the ICT industry, Law and Economics with certain number of years in those industries.
b. The board member representing the ministry should be the Director of ICT at the ministry if it exists.
c. For the mode of appointment, the president can appoint the chairperson and the three representatives from the private sector on the recommendations of the Minister.
5. Co-Opted Board Members-
a. The board may co-opt a person during a board meeting but the majority of the board members must agree this to.
i. Co-opted persons will not be able to vote on any matter under discussion.
ii. Co-opted persons must take an oath of secrecy.
b. Co-Opted persons must not have any interest in the matters to be discussed
6. Additional Functions of the Board-
The following may be considered important/necessary additional functions of the Board of the Agency;
a. Monitor the implementation of the plans and programmes of the Agency;
b. Approve the annual budget and action plan of the Agency;
c. Appoint the staff of the Agency;
d. Determine the structure and staffing levels of the Agency and the terms of service of the staff of the Agency;
e. To appoint from time to time authorized officers for the purposes of carrying out information technology surveys and data collection with determined terms of service.
f. Establish rules and procedures for—
a. The appointment, career development and disciplining of staff; The management of the finances and assets of the Agency; and
b. Submit a quarterly report to the Minister, on the activities of the Agency and an annul report to both the minister and the National Assembly;
c. Perform any other functions as may be approved by the Minister in writing, on the recommendation of the Board.
7. Removal from Office of Board members-
b. Abuse of Office
d. Failure to attend three consecutive board meetings without reasonable grounds.
e. A member of the Board other than the Executive Director may resign from the Board by giving notice in writing to the Board, of not less than one month;
f. A removal on grounds of physical or mental incapacity rendering a person incapable must be subject to a certified advice of a qualified medical practitioner that the member is incapacitated by physical or mental illness to such an extent as to render the member incapable of carrying out his or her functions as a member of the board;
1. Secretariat of the Agency-
For proper administration of the Agency, we propose that the Agency have a Secretariat headed by the Director General and with directorates to run the affairs of the agency. For example, a Directorate of Planning and Research, Directorate of Business Development, Directorate of IT Services, Directorate of Data management, Directorate of Infrastructure etc.
9. Discharging their functions, the Agency shall take into account:
⦁ The needs of persons who are physically challenged, the elderly and those on low income.
⦁ The protection and the interest of consumers as regards to choice, price, quality of service, and value for money.
⦁ The opinion of consumers and members of the public
10. Roles and Responsibilities of the Director General-
a. In addition to others, the Secretariat shall be the source of official information and data relating to Government information systems.
b. It shall implement Government and national e- Government plans with related information technology policies, strategies and action plans.
c. It shall be the custodian of documentation in relation to e-Government policies, strategies and action plans.
11. Director General’s Term of Office
a. By looking at the specific roles of the Agency for the Government in the changing ICT world and based on best practice it is important that there is term limit to that of the Director General.
b. The Director General can hold office for five years and can be eligible for re- appointment for one more term.
c. The terms and conditions of his or her service can be determined by the Board and approved by the Minister. The said terms (including appointment and removal) ought to be specified in the instrument of his or her appointment.
d. In addition to the others in the draft, there should be mention of the fact that as the accounting officer of the Agency, the Director General shall be responsible for the management of the funds, property and business of the Agency.
e. Further, Director General, shall on appointment, take and subscribe to, before the Board, the oath of office and secrecy.
a. The issue of delegating any of the unique functions of the Agency to any other organization on clear terms and conditions needs to be captured.
2. Relation with Other Entities-
a. For reasons of its objectives, there is a need for a provision where the Agency, in performing its functions, can consult and cooperate with organizations with related functions or those having related aims or objectives as those of the Agency.
3. Offences- There is a need to clearly indicate the actions the Agency will take when offences are committed.
Based on the above observations and recommendation, and the fact that the Agency will have a lot on its shoulders in terms of government data, there is a need to redraft the whole bill to include the comments and suggestions made by the committee.
We want to thank the entire members of the National assembly for the trust they have in this committee to review and report back to you on matters of national interest.
Special thanks go to the office of the clerk and his staff for making the office available even on a Sunday for us to be able to do our work.
Equally, we would like to thank the International Republican Institute (IRI), Mr, Lamin Jabbi Esq whose contributions in ensuring this report are informative, diligent and above all enlightening.
Finally, we want to thank ourselves (Select Committee on Education, Training and ICT) for the collaborative and team work clearly demonstrated throughout the review of this bill.
1. Hon Yaya Gassama Chairperson
2. Hon. Alhagie Mbow Vice Chairperson
3. Hon Saikouba Jarju Rapporteur
4. Hon Muhammed Mahanera Rapporteur
5. Hon Alhagie S. Darbo Member
6. Hon Alhagie Darboe Member
7. Hon. Alhaji Sankung Jammeh Member
8. Hon. Ndey Yassin Secka Member
9. Hon. Sidia S. Jatta Member
10. Hon. Ousman Touray Member
11. Hon Fakebba Colley Member
12. Hon Bakary Njie Member
13. Hon Sainey Touray Member
14. Muhammed Magassey Member
15. Hon Matarr Jeng Member
16. Hon Abdoulie Ceesay Member
17. Hon. Alfusainey Ceesay Member
Subject Matter Specialists
1. Lamin Jabbi Esq.
1. Isatou Sonko