Bah Commission Indicts GPPA for a Series of Gaffes

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By Makutu Manneh

The Local Government Commission of Inquiry has faulted the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) for the bad decision they made in their work with Councils between 2018 and 2023.

The Commission took a swipe at GPPA as it continues to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the local government councils.

So far, witnesses from the Ministry of Local/Regional Government, Local Government Service Commission, National Audit Office, Directorate of Internal Audit, and the banks have testified before the Commission.

Three witnesses from GPPA have been appearing before the inquiry body dubbed the “Bah Commission” making uncomfortable admissions for the blunders the authority has committed. They were Phoday Jaiteh – the Director General of GPPA, Ebrima Sanyang – the Director of Procurement Policy and Operations and Samba J.B. Tambura – the Director of Compliance.

According to the law, all area councils should obtain approval from GPPA for their procurement activities. The authority (GPPA) is responsible for enforcing the GPPA Act. In administering the law, GPPA is expected to comprehensively review applications for approvals from the area councils before granting approval.

The two Counsels for the Commission, Yakarr Cox and Patrick Gomez, have been coherently uncovering the malpractices and inconsistencies of the authority.

Two key purposes of regulating procurement are to ensure that there is value for money for all transactions and to minimise corruption. Hence, the procedures are clearly stated in the GPPA Act and the Regulations. The area councils have been doing procurements that are not in line with the dictates of the law, but GPPA approved those transactions.

Before approval is given by GPPA, the area councils are obliged to provide enough justifications through documentation, however, in most of the procurement engagements, GPPA approved the transactions without proper or complete documentation. The procurement forms developed by GPPA are mandatory to be submitted, but in most of the GPPA files, those relevant documents are missing. The overwhelming majority of the GPPA files before the Commission are incomplete. Most of the forms therein are not fully administered or filled.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Brikama Area Council, Modou Jonga, has submitted a series of requests for approval using the same reference numbers, sparking suspicion of forging documents to obtain approval by attaching photocopy signatures of members of the contracts committee. In the transaction for a secondhand pickup vehicle costing D1.7 Million, the Commission noted that GPPA refused three (3) requests by CEO Jonga. However, on the 5th of August 2020, GPPA and CEO Jonga exchanged several letters on the same day until approval was given.

Ibraima Sanyang of GPPA said they were under pressure and they needed to do that saying, “We were pushed to the corner.”

Deputy Lead Counsel Patrick Gomez of the Commission told the witnesses that the logo that CEO Jonga submitted to them was not original and had overlapping printings. Gomez further pointed out that the minutes were typed and printed, but the signatures attached were photocopies. Gomez said that the Brikama Area Council submitted two minutes of the contracts committee meetings with the first one not signed, adding that when GPPA raised the issue in one of their refusal letters, CEO Jonga came up with another document with an attached photocopy of the signatures of the members of the contracts committee. Lawyer Gomez said these were “red flags” for GPPA to suspect fraud. The GPPA witnesses (Ibraima Sanyang and Samba Tambura) said none of the conditions of procurements were met and stated that approval should not have been granted by the authority.

“It is baffling,” Tambura said.

In another transaction, Basse Area Council requested approval from GPPA for the procurement of a second-hand Toyota Prado for Eight Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dalasis. In the GPPA file, the area council did not complete the GPPA forms and there was no declaration form for the members of the contracts committee to indicate that they do not have any conflicting interests in the transaction.

“It is an anomaly,” Tambura said.

Another discovery was the minutes of the contracts’ committee meeting were not signed by all members of the committee.

Samba Tambura said the authority should have thoroughly reviewed the application before granting approval to ensure that the documentation is complete.

In so many instances, the Commission noted that GPPA approved procurement transactions when the bid processes were not rightly followed. In some instances, the area councils did not do publications of the procurement. At times, GPPA approved the wrong procurement method. GPPA approved transactions without complete documentation. The transactions in which the Banjul City Council procured a vehicle for the Mayor and 3000 dustbins for the city were done using a restricted tendering method. The Commission noted that Form 002 and other documentations were not provided to provide justification for using restricted tender.

“The fact that none of the conditions of restricted tendering was met, approval should not have been granted. These were red flags for mis-procurement. It is prone to corruption and there will not be adequate checks. It is prone to misuse and the likes,” Tambura said.

GPPA also admitted that they prematurely approved the Banjul City Council (BCC) 100-meter Mile 2 Dumpsite Fence.

For the BCC’s 2020 procurement of calendars, GPPA approved it without any supporting documents. GPPA also approved the Thirteen Million Dalasis procurement of 5700 dustbins and a compactor tractor by BCC when some members of the contracts committee declined to sign the minutes of their purported meeting in protest. Abdoulie J. Corr – the Internal Auditor and Ida Njie – the Procurement Officer refused to sign the minutes. The witnesses from GPPA (Ibraima Sanyang and Phoday Jaiteh) both said the signatures of the two members of the contracts committee attached to the minutes were possibly forged since they were not the same as their former signatures.

“If these two members did not sign, it was not necessary for the authority [GPPA] to approve,” Sanyang said.

After approval and contracts are signed, the area councils are supposed to provide GPPA with the contract documents, but they have not been doing that.

GPPA approved the Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) radio station project. The cost was for D1.2 Million Dalasi. Interestingly, the GPPA file was almost empty with no documentation about the project.

GPPA also approved KMC’s D17 Million waste bin project. KMC wanted to procure 10,000 waste bins using restricted tender due to urgency. Despite the approval, Ibraima Sanyang said “urgency is not a reason to justify the use of restricted tendering.”

These problems were happening in the other area councils, too. The three witnesses from GPPA have been appearing before the Commission for over a month and still coming. Foroyaa will continue to publish the public hearings of the Commission to inform the public.