By Kebba Secka
The Public Enterprise Committee (PEC) of the National Assembly unanimously considered and adopted the activity and financial report of the Gambia International Airlines (GIA) on Thursday February 27th 2020 for the years ended 2017 and 2018 respectively.
While presiding over the proceedings, Deputy Chairperson of PEC Alagie Jawara, reminded the board and management of GIA the oversight functions of the National Assembly particularly PEC, in trying to diagnose institutions’ challenges, strengths and lapses, in order to promote effective and efficient public enterprise service delivery.
He enjoined his fellow members to raise their concerns with the management and board of GIA regarding their report. In so doing, the Member for Foni Bintang Constituency Momodou Camara, sought an explanation from the GIA members of the factors responsible for the decline in profit in 2018, when compared to 2017.
In response, GIA’s Managing Director Lamin Cham, said each year there are unforeseen circumstances such as accommodation and other challenges faced by GIA and the Gambian hajj pilgrims; that this is often responsible for GIA’s shortfalls in terms of investment gains.
The Member for Latri Kunda Sabiji Constituency Sakou Marong asked for the difference between 152. 194m and 102. 286m between 2017 and 2018.
He went on: ‘‘I can imagine, there’s loss in profits in 2018 when compared to 2017. Why are you investing in something where you will gain losses?’’, he asked.
In response, MD Cham said the GIA is a public institution and as such it does not involve in hajj investment for profit; that GIA engages in hajj investment to fulfill public-social satisfaction considering that the majority of Gambians are Muslims. Dilating on the loss of profit between 2018 and 2019, Cham said air ticket costs coupled with Saudi Arabia’s numerous conditions during the hajj, pushes them to choose a career and this was not helpful to the GIA.
‘‘The cost of hajj is becoming expensive and unaffordable to Gambians,’’ M.D. Cham said.
Marong further asked for the kind of opportunities GIA can harvest if it cannot compete to maximize profits. In his response, Cham said GIA is a commercial entity and pays dividend to the Central Government as well as satisfies socio-religious demands alongside revenue generation.
However on page 18 of their Financial Report, GIA is spotted to have indicated loans owed to Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, Gamtel and Zenith Bank. Members demanded an explanation on the circumstances surrounding such loans.
In his reply, both the Chairperson of the GIA board Abdoulie Hydara and Managing Director Cham said there was a hajj challenge for the year under review and the Government of the Gambia intervened and asked GIA to obtain loans from these institutions, to be able to repatriate pilgrims who were stuck in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia back to the country.
Board Chairperson Hydara said Government left the burden of the repayment of these loans with them after facilitating their access. Hydara said the repayments of the loans are in progress while detailing on the circumstances that necessitated the loans; that in 2006 AU Summit in Banjul, Government asked Gamtel to provide GIA with funds to purchase equipment to be installed at the Banjul International Airport which resulted in the loan between them. Management of GIA also outlined the debts owed to them by former staff of the institution in the form of a loan. He told members that the former staffs were wrongfully dismissed from their positions under the pretext of the executive order; that while acting as Managing director, he wrote three dismissal letters to former employees of the GIA when his Managing Director was out of the country. He said at the time, service security was not in existence and employees can lose their jobs any time; that the dismissed staff took loans from the institution which is still not paid. Commenting on the insecurity of their services, Alagie Jawara said they want to rectify all those irregularities and establish a functional, responsible and vibrant social service and job security that would satisfy Gambia’s public interest. He asked management to supply them with all the copies of the letters.