By Makutu Manneh
The Local Government Commission of Inquiry dubbed the Bah Commission Monday, 21 August investigated the procurement of a vehicle for the Mayor of Banjul by the Banjul City Council (BCC).
The Commission also probed the procurement of three thousand (3000) dustbins by the city council.
Like many other procurements, the Bah Commission made discoveries on violations of the procurement rules by the city councils and negligence by the Gambia Public Procurement Authority.
GPPA was caught in many instances allowing the violations of its rules by the city councils. Procurement in the Gambia is regulated by the GPPA Act and the Regulations. GPPA is the body mandated to review procurements and either grant approval or decline from approving it.
The Mayor’s Prado was initially charged at Four Million and Twenty-Five Thousand Dalasi (D4,025,000), but after GPPA approved the procurement, BCC got the vehicle at the cost of Three Million Four Hundred and Fifty Thousand Dalasi (D3,450,000). For the procurement of the dustbins, Banjul City Council spent Thirteen Million Eight Hundred Thousand Dalasis (D13,800,000) for the 3000 dustbins. This means they spent Four Thousand Six Hundred Dalasis (D4,600) for each dustbin.
Two witnesses from GPPA jointly appeared yesterday – Ebrima Sanyang, the Director of Procurement and Operations and Samba J.B. Tambura, the Director of Compliance. The Local Government Commission of Inquiry was established to conduct a full and impartial investigation into the local government councils with a view to enhancing transparency and accountability in the councils. The Commission of Inquiry is doing a holistic and fair review of the financial and administrative operations of the councils.
The Commissioners are Jainaba Bah – Chairperson, Samba Faal – Vice Chairperson, Oreme E. Joine, Alagie Sillah and Sukai Secka- Sagnia.
PROCUREMENT OF PRADO VEHICLE FOR MAYOR
The Banjul City Council wanted to procure a Prado vehicle for the Mayor of the City using restricted tendering method. On the 6th of September 2018, the Contracts Committee of the Council which comprised the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Director of Finance, Director of Planning and some newly elected councilors at the time. During the deliberation, CEO Mustapha Batchilly told the members that the mayor’s vehicle was purchased in 2011 and was still in good condition because of the regular maintenance of the vehicle.
“The vehicle is in good condition due to regular maintenance,” CEO Batchilly told the members of the contracts committee.
Deputy Lead Counsel Patrick Gomez pointed out to the witnesses that the letter from BCC to the suppliers was that the condition of the vehicle was bad. Lawyer Gomez further pressed that the reasons given by BCC for the use of restricted tendering method was not sufficient. Samba J.B. Tambura, Director of Compliance at GPPA, said the justification was not sufficient. When he was told that GPPA approved the procurement without sufficient justification, Tambura admitted saying “approval was given.”
Tambura testified that he was surprised because the file did not contain Form 002, which is the justification for the use of restricted tendering.
“I am surprised it [Form 002] is not in the file,” Tambura said.
Lawyer Patrick Gomez told Tambura not to be surprised because that has been the norm in most of the procurements. He referred Tambura to the procurement reports of the counsels.
“I agree, Counsel,” Tambura said.
Tambura added: “We have seen series of instances of violations and I think the writings are very clear on the walls.”
Lawyer Gomez pointed out concerns raised by the Deputy Mayor in the minutes of the Contracts Committee meeting. The Deputy Mayor asked whether GPPA will approve the procurement when the current vehicle was not disposed. CEO Batchilly responded saying “GPPA does not have a say in the transaction.” Lawyer Gomez said this simply translates to mean the procuring organization, BCC, does not respect the authority (GPPA). Tambura concurred saying “Yes, Counsel, agreed.”
Both Tambura and Sanyang insisted that the number of vehicle suppliers in the Gambia is limited and this is why GPPA always advise procuring organisations (area councils) to use restricted tendering.
CFAO was awarded the contract. BCC on 10th of January 2019 wrote to CFAO indicating that they have paid One Million Three Hundred and Eighty Thousand Dalasi (D1,380,000) as the 40% down payment.
The Commission of Inquiry observed that BCC did not provide GPPA with the contract documents they signed with CFAO. Tambura said BCC should have provided GPPA with the contract documents.
PROCUREMENT OF DUSTBINS
The Commission of Inquiry discovered that Form 002 did not contain any justification for restricting the bidders. The Commission further discovered that GPPA initially declined from approving the request from BCC to use restricted tendering because there was no standard bidding document attached and there was no justification put forward.
On the contrast, Lawyer Gomez told the witnesses that the same justification was not provided for in the procurement of the vehicle for the mayor and yet, GPPA approved that procurement. Gomez said that was an inconsistency on the authority, adding the authority should implement the law fully.
BCC asked GPPA to shorten the bidding period from 30 days to 10 days and approve the use of restricted tendering for the procurement of 3000 dustbins.
The Commission of Inquiry noted that the minutes of the Contracts Committee dated 24th of December 2018 did not provide any justifications for the use of restricted tendering.
“You are right,” Director Sanyang said, adding “there was no justification provided.”
“I did not see anywhere in the file that the concerns raised by GPPA were met. You subsequently approved the use of restricted tendering without having BCC to provide you with justifications,” Patrick Gomez said.
Tambura, after reading from the file, said the justification the city council provided was that there were no dustbins in the city and the people were using nylons and other inappropriate containers.
“Is that sufficient?” Lawyer Gomez asked.
“No,” Director Sanyang answered.
“No justification was provided for the use of restricted tender, but you see clearly that they have targeted suppliers,” Lawyer Gomez said.
“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.
The contract was awarded to Kebba and Sons.