By Tabora Bojang
The Public Petitions Committee of the National Assembly continues its inquiry into allegations of graft and malpractices at the Gambia Tourism Board with a testimony from Abdoulie Baax Touray, a former chairman of the GTboard.
The enquiry is looking at a petition filed by aggrieved GTBoard staff alleging ‘wide spread corruption and irregularities’ in the award of contracts for the construction of eco-lodges among other things.
The petition implicates senior officials of GTBoard and Ministry of Tourism, all of whom denied any wrong doing. They also claim they believe the removal of board chairman Abdoulie M Touray by Tourism Minister Hamat Bah was triggered by their visit to his office to report the management’s alleged malpractices on May 18 2020.
Testifying before lawmakers Friday, Touray, who is commonly known as Baax, said although his removal letter does not state any reasons but it came a few weeks after he had audience with some staff aggrieved about certain matters including the ecolodges contract.
“I received a letter on June 10, 2020 and the letter states that His Excellency the president has dissolved the board and, on whose recommendations, I don’t know,” Touray stated.
He continued: “But when I received my letter, I called my colleagues in the board Malleh Sallah and Baboucarr Suwareh and they also confirmed to me that they received a similar letter but they called me the next day and said they both received another letter appointing them to continue to serve as board members. I told them that I did not receive any letter of such. The next day I received a call from Batch Faye that he is appointed the new chairman and I handed over (the chairmanship) to him”.
Asked about the procedure for appointment and removal of board members and to what extent is the tourism minister involved, the witness said board members are appointed and removed at the discretion of the president and could be on the recommendation of the tourism minister.
When quizzed by committee chairman Suwaibu Touray whether it was his meeting with the staff that triggered his removal, Touray responded: “I will be speculating because I don’t know the motive.”
On the eco lodges contract, the former board chairman informed NAMs that he does not have firsthand knowledge about the lodges or the contract details because it was never tabled or mentioned before the board.
Touray who also served as board chairman at several public institutions including the UTG, PURA and GCCI, said when he took over the board chairmanship at GTBoard his first task was to establish the need to reposition the institution.
According to him, this culminated in a series of consultations and request to all GT Board directors to make presentations on the activities of their units.
He said while this and many other issues were on the table for the board to resolve as well as also look into staff grievances about the ecolodges following their meeting in his office, the board was removed.