By Tabora Bojang
The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Mambury Njie has said Gambian companies must be given the opportunity to participate in securing electoral materials for upcoming elections counter to the claims of the IEC against local partnership.
During its appearance before the National Assembly select committee last month, the Independent Electoral Commission argued that history has shown that the involvement of local companies in the procurement of electoral materials could engender electoral violence and dispute.
The IEC was forced to delay the start of voter registration previously slated for January 14th 2021, following an impasse with the GPPA, which raised objections over the commission’s wish to select Electoral Service International (ESI).
At least three overseas firms and a Gambian company (Smart Business Group) have expressed interest, but IEC chief electoral officer Samboujang Njie insisted that taking into consideration the risks attached to local partnerships, IEC will not condone awarding the contract to a beginner, since “local contractors often belong to a political party and when they do the printing, the voter data ends up with politicians and they tamper with it”.
But speaking to journalists following discussions with lawmakers on IEC’s electoral budget for the upcoming elections Tuesday, Minister Njie countered: “The bottom line and my whole argument is, elections are held every five years and whatever we are requesting are they telling me that Gambian companies cannot do it? Even if a Gambian company cannot do it they can partner with an international company and build capacity. That’s my whole argument,” Minister Njie said.
“It hurts. This is taxpayers’ money. Gambians are paying the money and any time we take the money, we ship it outside and those companies coming are commercial firms, they will never hand over that technology to our own guys. So how de we build capacity? So I am insisting that we go further to in fact legislate local content.”
The minister said even though government has no plan to compromise quality, its prefers Gambian companies to be part of the process.
“If Gambian companies cannot do it, they can partner with international companies and the knowledge transferred to the local partner so that we boost our own companies to make sure they will be able to compete internationally,” Njie added.