By Makutu Manneh
The Local Government Commission of Inquiry (LGCI) has on Thursday, 24 August 2023 made more discoveries of suspected fraudulent activities in the Brikama Area Council (BAC) procurement processes.
Two (2) witnesses from the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) appeared before the Commission. Ibraima Sanyang, the Director of Procurement Policy and Operations, and Samba J.B Tambura, the Director of Compliance.
The Local Government Commission of Inquiry was established to perform a full and impartial investigation into the financial and administrative activities of the local government councils from 2018 to 2023. The idea for the setting up of the commission of inquiry is to enhance transparency and accountability in the councils.
Brikama Area Council (BAC) decided to dispose or auction items and sought approval from GPPA. The area council first sought approval for disposing sixteen (16) items. GPPA approved it. They later made application for the disposal of five (5) further items and it was also granted by GPPA. The items included vehicles, vehicle parts, tractor trailers, tractor parts and metal doors among others.
The GPPA Act provides when an area council wants to dispose items, it should first set up a survey board that will preside over the affairs of the auction, but this never happened in this procurement. Auction or disposal of items is part of procurement and is subjected to procurement rules.
The Commission noted that the letter from Brikama Area Council for the 16 items did not indicate that they were requesting for approval for anything. However, GPPA replied to them that they have approved the procurement.
“There is no request in the first letter [for the 16 items],” Deputy Lead Counsel Patrick Gomez said.
“Yes, Counsel. There is no application,” Samba Tambura of GPPA said.
The Commission noted that GPPA’s letter claimed that the reason for approving the disposal of the items was because there was evidence of the contracts committee meeting.
“Which contracts committee meeting minutes are you referring to?” Lawyer Gomez asked.
Tambura, in his response, said he did not see the minutes in the file.
“Even if there were minutes of the meeting, is that sufficient?” Lawyer Gomez asked.
“No,” both Ibraima Sanyang and Samba Tambura answered.
“Did they set up a board of surveyors?” Lawyer Gomez asked.
“No,” both Sanyang and Tambura answered.
“So, on what basis did you allow for the auction?” Gomez asked.
Both witnesses were silent and did not provide an answer.
Lawyer Gomez said GPPA was helping the area council to flout the rules of procurement. He added that GPPA pave the way for CEO Modou Jonga to bypass rules to get approvals from the authority (GPPA). Gomez pointed out that the letters from the area council had the same reference number.
Gomez further explained that the rules require that the board of survey should first come up with a report, which shall be sent to the CEO of the area council for either approval or rejection. He said after the approval of the CEO, the report of the board of surveyors and the approval of the CEO should both be sent to GPPA as part of the application. He added that this is when GPPA can review the application and approve or refuse the application for auction.
Lawyer Gomez said Brikama Area Council did not provide GPPA any sufficient justification to warrant the approval of the procurement. Gomez stressed that the items for disposal are public properties and therefore, GPPA should have ensured that they apply the law.
The Commission noted that the purported minutes of the contracts committee were “doctored”. The Commission discovered that the minutes were typed and printed, but the members of the contracts committee did not sign it. It further discovered that CEO Jonga attached photocopied signatures on the minutes and GPPA approved the procurement.
“Yet, your office decided to give approval for the auction of these items and I want to know why,” he said.
Samba J.B. Tambura, the Director of compliance said there is no evidence to support the application, adding that it is clear from the records that the procedures were wrong.
“It is difficult to explain at this juncture,” Tambura said.
The law makes provision for BAC to provide a report to GPPA after 14 days of the auction. The Commission noted that BAC, until now, has not provided the report of the auction to GPPA.
Ibraima Sanyang said approval should not have been granted since the documents attached did not come from the contracts committee.
“It should have been rejected,” Sanyang said.
Another transaction the Commission probed was the purchase of One Thousand Six Hundred and Eighty (1680) bags of 20 kg of rice at a price of Nine Hundred and Sixty-Seven Thousand Six Hundred and Eighty Dalasi (D967,680).
Brikama Area Council in their letter to GPPA seeking approval indicated that the supplier was the one who came to them and offered to sell them the rice.
The Commission noted that the printed minutes of the contracts committee submitted to GPPA was signed by Procurement Manager Saidou Kunta and CEO Modou Jonga alone. The signatures of the other members of the contracts committee was a photocopy pasted on the document.
“It is a red flag for fraud. This should not be taken as minutes of the contracts committee meeting,” Ibraima Sanyang said.
Both Tambura and Sanyang stated that the procurement should not have been done using single sourcing since none of the conditions of that procurement method was fulfilled.
Sanyang said the law requires the area council to publish the award of the contract in a newspaper, but the Brikama Area Council did not publish it.
For more on the other findings, please read our Monday publication.