By: Kebba AF Touray
During their debate on State Owned Enterprises Bill, 2022 on Monday, 19th December 2022, Members of the National Assembly warned that there should be no political or other interference in the selection and operations of State-owned Enterprise Commission and its members.
While seconding the motion on the SOE Bill 2022, the Member for Brikama South, Lamin J Sanneh said the bill will provide a monitoring mechanism in the performance of SOEs, by putting them on a firm footing and maximize their profitability, thereby ensuring that the SOEs pay dividend to the government at the end of the day, as expected.
The Member for Upper Fulladou West, Bakary Kora, said the Bill has come at the right time in view of the constraints confronting SOEs. He said there are thirteen SOEs and the Bill will address all the loopholes and the high indebtedness of SOEs.
“When the SOE Commission is set up, all these loopholes will be put to history. If we want to develop as a nation, we need a well-functioning SOE because they are cornerstones in the creation of job opportunities,” he added.
The Member for Jokadu Constituency, Salif Jawo, called for a regulation of SOEs, adding that their roles include job create; provision of services and paying of dividend to the State; that if SOEs are properly monitored and managed, they have the potential of contributing greatly to the GDP of the country.
“Gambia gained independence in 1965 and citizens still cry of being confronted with constraints regarding employment opportunities. There should be effective monitoring of SOEs so that they can deliver as mandated and the Bill ensures that this is attained,” he said.
Member for Lower Nuimi, Omar Darboe, stated that the establishment of the SOE Commission is cardinal in the monitoring of the entities, and that during the establishment of the said commission there is dire need to consider gender equality in the commission.
He added that the political interference in the work of the SOEs is now minimized, stating that the government does not want to have a say or hand in the operations of the SOEs, and this according to him, is among the reasons certain issues are happening in some of the entities.
Member for Jarra Central, Kebba Jallow, said that the fact that the SOEs are not forthcoming in the payment of their dividend to government shows the inefficiencies in the sector, thus expressed the establishment of the SOE Commission will serve as a game changer, in ensuring the effective and efficient execution of the SOEs.
“Some of the SOEs are highly indebted to the tune of D3.5 billion which is an indication of gross inefficiencies in the sector. The Bill will strengthen the monitoring of the SOEs, put the challenges and the huge liabilities owed by the SOEs into history,” he said.
Member for Foni Kansala, Alimameh Gibba, while commenting on the Bill, stated that in execution of its core mandate, SOEs will pay dividends to the government, enhance employability and profitability of the entities and the commission will also serve as a watchdog to all the SOEs.
He challenged that once established and properly scrutinized; the SOE Commission will work effectively and will be able to hold the entities to account.
Member for Kiang West, Lamin Ceesay, dilated that the appointment into the SOE Commission be done with due regard to competency, credibility and should comprise of members of high sense of integrity and has the requisite knowledge, to ensure that they properly execute the core mandates of the SOEs, saying “The SOEs should be efficient in carrying out their core mandates, effectively and efficiently represent the government.”
Alhagie S Darboe, member for Brikama North, suggested for the Bill to be referred to the relevant committee for further scrutiny and report its findings to the plenary.
“Members expressed concerns over political interference. If more power is given to the appointing authority, they will dictate the performance of the SOEs. The power to appoint needs to be critically looked into to ensure that the appointments are subjected to legislative confirmation, so as to avert political interference in the work of the commission,” he said.
Member for Wuli East Constituency, Suwaibou Touray, said that the significance of creating SOEs is to pay dividend to government apart from tax and move the country’s budget to another level, and challenged that the SOEs be empowered to be able to compete.
“Our problems regarding the SOEs are accountability and transparency. We must scrutinise this Bill thoroughly to ensure that the loopholes are addressed,” he said.
“SOEs have been characterised with corruption, nepotism, kleptocracy, patronage and political interference which are all negatively impacting on the effective performance of the SOES. The objective of the Bill is realistic but there is the need for effective monitoring, evaluation and implementation of the Bill. This will ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the Bill to ensure that the purposes for which it is passed and enacted are attained,” Sulayman Saho, Member for Baddibu Central said.