By Tabora Bojang
The Public Petitions Committee of the National Assembly yesterday launched investigations into allegations of graft implicating staff of the GPA rating unit who were accused of issuing fake receipts, undercutting fees, soliciting brides and inducements and going away with D4 million per week between 2020 to 2022.
The probe came following a petition by Muhammed L Darboe of Brikama and Tijan Bah of Sandu. The petitioners want the committee to compel the GPA management, who followed the allegations with an internal investigation, to share the findings of their report public.
Darboe and Bah appeared before the committee chaired by Wuli East NAM Suwaibou Touray in respect to the matter.
In his testimony, Mr. Tijan Bah prayed the committee for an order in line with its oversight responsibilities to compel the GPA senior management to release the report of the internal audit which was submitted on March 16th 2022. He backed up his claims with a reference to a statement by the GPA spokesperson published on The Standard in which he reported that the GPA investigative panel has submitted its preliminary findings to the management, and that about D25 million may have been unaccounted for between 2020 and 2021. For his counterpart, Darboe said the fact that GPA itself confirmed that elements of the allegations are truthful, it obliges lawmakers as people representatives to get to the bottom of the matter and fulfil their requests for the authority to share the report publicly. “Our petition focuses on compelling them to make their report public. GPA is a public institution and the fact that they acknowledged there was corruption makes this cause crucial,” he told NAMs.
But in her submission, nominated NAM Fatoumatta Jawara, who is the vice chair of the committee, told the petitioners that the committee’s “hands are tight” because they did not provide them with any tangible evidence to proceed with the probe. “We want to know the source of revenue that GPA got every year, the fake receipts that they allegedly used and if you can get staff from GPA that will support the petition in order for us to get more evidence but notwithstanding, we have the relevant committee that is performing oversight over the GPA that will also mount an investigation into this issue but as at now, our hands are tight because we don’t have many tangible evidence to proceed with. We also ask you to help us with those staff you claim were laid off so that we can see if we can get some information that you [petitioners] are not privy to”, Jawara submitted.
Darboe, who was displeased with Jawara’s position, charged: “Honourable, I think we have to be specific here. The purpose of this petition is not to bring anybody for you to question. There is an allegation against GPA and they confessed to that allegation and formed a task force to investigate. That report was submitted to the management on March 16th but it was nowhere to be seen and this is why we asked you [NAMs] to call GPA and compel them to publish the report.”
Fatoumatta countered: “This is not a matter of being specific or not. You people wrote a petition and some of the information that we needed were not there and you people are not staff of the GPA and you mentioned here that some staff were laid off as a result but we did not know them. Maybe you can talk to them or liaise them with our clerk so that we can get this information. We are working on facts not allegations but if you said that one needs to be specific, I think those words have to be strapped out.”
Committee chairman Touray intervened and reminded NAM Jawara that the petition is simply requesting them to compel GPA to make the report public.
“We are not supposed to do any major investigation into this. Our major concern is the report of the internal audit. We know how to call the GPA for them to produce that report but not talk to staff or to see who is affected or not.”
Aggrieved Fatoumatta, replied: “Mr. Chairman, we can have an audit report that may not contain all these allegations. That is why I told them if they have staff that they claim were laid off, they may be in a position to tell us all what transpired. But if you still want us to go by what they said, then we can proceed.” However, the chairman stated the committee will recommend further steps if the report is made public and found contents to be matter of public concern. “We can recommend for that investigation to be conducted or we can recommend for us to mount our own investigation but provided the report is out.”