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Gov’t explains $35.7M Banjul roads project queried by auditors

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By Tabora Bojang

The Accountant General yesterday furnished the Finance and Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly with government’s reasoning for awarding the controversial Banjul Roads Project to Gai Enterprise queried by auditors for not following GPPA regulations.

In its audit report on the government’s 2019 accounts and financial statements, the Auditor General revealed that actual works started in March 2019, two months before the contract was even signed and tabled in the National Assembly.

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The audit further discovered that the contract was gazetted well after the commencement of the work in violation of the Gambia Public Procurement Authority Act and there were no feasibility studies nor an environmental impact assessment conducted before the contract was awarded.

The auditors said they requested a copy of the gazette as well as evidence of invitation for project proposal but none was provided by the government for review.

Briefing lawmakers on the government’s response to these audit anomalies, Accountant General Agnes Macaulay, said:

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“On February 16th 2019, President Adama Barrow launched the Banjul rehabilitation and rebuilding project at the Banjul Mini Stadium attended by a wide spectrum of Banjul community members, stakeholder institutions and various dignitaries including the Mayor of Banjul. At the launching, the president noted that Banjul has been facing challenges in terms of flooding and leakages of sanitary waste coupled with the loss of the structural integrity of the roads due to the high underground water table. That the implementation of this project cannot come at a better time than today in addressing all the challenges the people of Banjul are facing.”

In addition to the launching of the project by the President in February 2019, the physical conditions of the drainage and sewage systems of Banjul were deteriorating and at crisis point and a danger of cholera outbreak demanding urgency and expedited actions especially in the face of the impending 2019 rains. With a local contractor with the capacity to do self-financing at least for a year, Gai Enterprise was recommended by the Office of the President and evaluated by the Ministry of Works to have all the requisite capacities, this evaluation was submitted to the cabinet for endorsement,” she said.

AG Macaulay added that on May 11th 2019 the contract was signed between Gai Enterprise and the Ministry of Transport Works and Infrastructure for the amount of $35.7 million for a 3-year period. “On May 14th 2019, the consultancy services for the supervision of the contract was signed between Sturdy International for Africa and MOWTI for the amount of $1.6 million for a period of 36 months. On May 30th 2019, the consultant provided notice for Gai Enterprise to proceed with the construction works retrospectively with effect from 1st of March 2019. The [consultant’s] notice demanded the submission by Gai Enterprise of the technical documentation, performance securities, insurance, programs of the work and CVs of key personnel for the work. The consultants had determined that the contractor demonstrates both technical and financial capacity to address the requirements of the project and recommended issuing notice. Below outlines the sequence of events in the face of a critical project situation requiring extra ordinary intervention using readily available local resources and immediate actions” the AG stated.

However, following her submission, FPAC Chairman Alagie S Darboe said although the AG’s statement as provided by the government may sound as justifications, the auditors strongly maintained their stance that the Banjul roads project was introduced without adequate preparation, due diligence and or a feasibility or environmental impact analysis.

“Failure to carry out a feasibility study for a contract of this nature requiring huge financial magnitude is tantamount to malpractice,” Darboe reaffirmed, quoting the audit report. 

Asked about her take on the auditor’s stance, the Accountant General replied; “It is not for me to decide to give you my verdict.”

But the chairman responded that he was asking her in her capacity as the Accountant General but the AG strenuously stated “right now I am not in the position to assess and give a verdict.”

“Until when? Darboe asked. The AG replied; “until I have an updated response.”

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