By Kemeseng Sanneh
Abdoulie Tambadou, former Director General of the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) now the MD of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) and Momodou Jallow, GPPA’s senior auditor, have recently appeared before the National Assembly Petitions Committee to clarify issues regarding the Petition made by workers against members of the Gambia Tourism Board (GTB).
The two witnesses appeared to shed light on the allegations leveled against members of the GT Board and the Ministry of Tourism. The petition sent to the National Assembly Petition’s Committee by GT Board staff express concerns over the issue of abuse and corruption at GTB, with the Minister of the aforesaid Ministry and Board members allegedly accused of not following the legal guidelines in managing the affairs of the Board.
The petition also alleged the Tourism Minister’s interference with the running of the affairs of the GTB to the extent of ordering the transfer of some of staff to the places in the provinces where there are no offices or tourism activities, just because they are opposed to his dictatorship of the GTB.
According to their petition, GT Board staff alleged that the Minister of Tourism and Members of his Board excluded them in negotiations involving the allocation of contracts for the building of eco-tourism lodges in the provinces, which they did without following due process as stipulated in the GPPA guidelines on land allocation in the TDA and other underhand activities; that for the past year and a half, there has been outright and blatant corruption by both the erstwhile Director General Abdoulie Hydara and his Director of Finance and Administration Ousamou Senghore.
The first witnessed to appear was Momodou Jallow, a GPPA staff, in order to inquire into the allegations in the petition. Jallow was told to inform the Committee of his knowledge about the award of contracts by the GT Board for the construction of five eco-lodges across the country.
According to the petitioners, Jallow had frequented GTB offices and assisted Hydara and Senghore in carrying out these “unlawful” and “corrupt” practices.
In his response to Committee Members, Jallow said the allegations leveled against him were not true; that he has never met or sat with neither the Director General, nor the Finance Director on any of the alleged corrupt practices indicated in the petition. He tasked the Committee Members to launch investigations and engage the petitioners to establish proof of their allegations against him. He told them that the composition of the contract committee is defined in the GPPA Act and that the committee that was set before him, received the file pertaining to the award of contract for the construction of the eco-lodges.
Jallow highlighted the major characteristics of the said contract, noting that the building of the eco-lodges requires special expertise. In reviewing the characteristics, he said he looked at the regulations in the Act in terms of what they have and what they lack. He told the Members of the Committee that some of the submissions from the bidders did not meet key issues such as response to payment terms and innovative solutions, building equipment, as well as the experience of bidders.
Jallow said some of the bidders also provided only a list, but did not provide evidence of what they can do, if a contract is awarded to them; that most bidders also provided only a list of their past construction works.
“Some of the suppliers did not even have the equipment to show that they can do the work. One of the suppliers provided a sample drawing of the innovative solution, but did not have any payment term and letter of intent. Most of them did not have the key requirement in their submissions. So based on their submissions, we looked at the one who responded substantially to our requirements as stated in the bid document,” Jallow told members of the Committee; that they assumed that the bidder who fulfilled most of the requirements with capacity and evidence, is allowed to negotiate with the GT Board’s contract committee, with the involvement of an engineer to assist them in awarding of the contract.
“My visit for the procurement audit is the only time when one can observe whether due process has been observed and subsequently a report is written to this effect, and it is the responsibility of the procurement agency to ensure that they have a specialized procurement unit,” he said. Jallow also told the committee members that their responsibility is to review procurement files to see if procurement is done in line with the due process.
On the removal, reprimand and transfer of some officials to the provinces as a form of punishment for their objection to the award of the said contracts, Jallow said he heard something like this being said but did not know the detail and did not find out.
In his final remarks, Jallow requested from Members of the Committee to make a formal apology to the petitioners (Staff) of the Gambia Tourism Board.
Appearance of the Second witness:
Abdoulie Tambadou, the former Director General of GPPA and now MD of SSHFC also appeared before members of the Petitions Committee to respond to and clarify issues regarding the Gambia Tourism Board staff’s Petition.
When asked for his knowledge about the contract and function of the GPPA, Tambadou informed the Committee that the functions of GPPA include regulating the public procurement environment of the Gambia Government; that this entails the regulations on the use of the public funds and that pass through the consolidated revenue fund and all loans and grants received on behalf of the Gambia Government.
“The functions of the GPPA, is to regulate the procurement of all institutions who by one way or another, utilize these funds through consolidated revenue fund, grants and loans. But the overall daily function of the GPPA, is to assist Government in the development of policies and the GPPA is under the Finance Ministry,” he said.
Tambadou said the GPPA Act was enacted in 2001, followed by the 2003 regulations and the enactment of the 2014 Act; that this was followed by the 2015 and 2019 regulations.
“The Act requires the authority to ensure that there is transparent public procurement process. This requires all Government agencies that utilize the consolidated revenue funds, grants and loans, to ensure their procurement process is transparent. This is ensured by the developed regulations which require public and state-owned enterprises and other government agencies, to ensure that they advertise a threshold in tendering in the various types of procurements,” he said.
Tambadou told members of the committee that the GPPA was aware of the process of awarding the procurement in the work of the eco-lodges of the GT Board; that the GT Board wrote to GPPA for the procurement of materials for the five eco-lodges across the country and this tender was published in Newspapers; that interested Companies sent their bids and an evaluation was sent to the GPPA for approval.
“We looked at the reports and detected some deficiencies. One of such deficiency was they did not provide us with evidence that they used a civil engineering firm in the design of their requirements and to assist them in the evaluation of the report,” he said.
Tambadou told members of the committee that this was the main deficiency that they detected to reject the recommendations; they requested them to carry out the requirements of ensuring that an independent civil supervision firm is involved in the evaluation. He however denied that he did not direct to ‘note and file’ the increment of the contract bid from D19 million to D22 million and as such, requested the Committee to provide him with the letter wherein such claim is stated; that ‘note and file’ are not approved by the GPPA.
Tambadou further said that the award for the bid was prepared by the procurement organization and the award bid for the construction of the five Eco-lodges was prepared by the GT Board.
On whether the publication of the award for the contract in Newspapers is good practice or a statutory requirement, the erstwhile GPPA DG responded that it is a statutory requirement in the GPPA regulation, but due to urgent challenges, the component of awarding the contract was not enforced.
“Have you seen the publication of the said award in the Newspapers?” asked the Chairperson of the Committee.
“I have not seen the publication of the GT Board contract award in the Newspapers. When they applied to us in 2018, we advised them that we will not approve and we requested them to include an engineering firm. This was aimed to improve their competitiveness in the process and to get value for money. Definitely, I was not aware of the award of more than D19.4 million. The GPPA should approve and the Act allows that it is possible that you go some stages and there are major changes. However, there is a process that you go through. But ‘note and file’ is not an approval,’’ Tambadou said; that “no Minister has ever called me on this contract award. If it happened, I would have disclosed it. The reason why it took us nine months was we requested the inclusion of a supervision engineering firm. All this was aimed to ensure that the requirements are specified and there is value for money at time of delivery,” he clarified.
On whether he was aware that the Finance Director was part of the GT Board Contract Committee, Tambadou replied thus: “The act does not say that the Finance Director should not be part of the special procurement for the contract committee. What we ensure is that there are members nominated and approved by the Managing Director or Director-General, a minimum of 3 or 5 as members of the contract committee,” Tambadou said; that the Act would not state the designations of a member of the contract committee and that it is the Managing Director or the Director General who ensures the reasonable spread of specialties to members of the contract committee. But that the Act does not state who should or should not be part of the contract committee.
On the removal and transfer of some officials to various places in the provinces as a form of punishment due to their objection to the contract award process, Tambadou said he has not been aware of this.
The National Assembly Petitions Committee consists of Sunkary Badjie as the Chairperson, Sanna Jawara, Fatoumatta Jawara, Ndey Secka, Suwaibou Touray, Alhagie Jawara and Lamin Conta.