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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Gov’t spends over D239M on vehicle maintenance in 4yrs … Stakeholders move to tackle problem

By Omar Bah

The Gambia government has spent a staggering D239, 748, 944 million on vehicle maintenance alone since President Adama Barrow came to power in 2017.

As of December 2019, as per the vehicle control records, the government has a total number of 925 vehicles of which 12% are project vehicles while 88% comprises VIP and regular/pool users.

But none of these vehicles was registered as a government vehicle under certain ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). There are also 266 motorcycles for mail delivery and other office services.

The massive spending on maintenance is associated with the absence of appropriate institutional and regulatory framework; inefficiency in procurement; absence of a centralized management system; poor operation and management; inappropriate policy; inadequate monitoring and evaluation of current system; inadequate capacity building of drivers and limited government involvement in procurement of project vehicles.

Concerned about the trend, the government through the Ministry of Works and Transport has validated a draft vehicle policy which will provide guidelines for the procurement; operations; maintenance; disposal and overall management of government vehicles.

Addressing representatives of government ministries and institutions at a day-long validation of the policy on Friday, the PS Ministry of Works, Mod K Ceesay, said the current trend of managing government vehicles “if left unchecked will pose huge cost to the economy”.

“To buttress this point, over the years, the government has been spending millions in the procurement and maintenance of government vehicles in 2020 alone, D78, 765, 429 was spent on the maintenance of government vehicles. This trend cannot continue as the national budget cannot sustain the cost any longer. Therefore, something needs to be done and done fast,” he said.

PS Ceesay said the policy has undergone thorough scrutiny of top-notch vehicle/transport specialists with considerable public sector transport management consultants, participatory consultation with MDAs, and all relevant stakeholders.

“A directorate of transport has been created to coordinate the implementation of the vehicle policy,” he added.

Vehicles policy

According to the new vehicle policy, henceforth all government vehicles must be registered and assigned with number plates. That all government vehicles shall be centralized under the department of transport which shall be responsible for their maintenance and administration.

The policy also directed that ministers shall be allocated a 4×4 flag and a saloon utility vehicle while permanent secretaries and their deputies be allocated official vehicles.

The policy states that where a deputy permanent secretary or director opted for a car loan, he/she shall be entitled to fuel allocation for the execution of official work. The policy also indicates that all other senior officials shall have access to vehicles by departmental requisition and authorisation.

According to the policy, fuel allocation should be subjected to the distance (kilometers’/miles) to be covered. Under the new policy; employees who violate government vehicle rules shall be subjected to either verbal warning; written warnings, suspension of vehicle privileges; surcharge; termination and legal action.

The Ministry of Interior is tasked with the responsibility of enforcing the vehicle policy and regulations.

The police are required to conduct spot checks on government vehicles as part of their routine inspection; charge drivers for traffic violations; inspect drivers’ vehicle log-books to verify the nature of their journey and conduct testing for usage of alcohol and medication impair driving ability and prosecute erring drivers.

The policy also recommended the upgrading of the current directorate of transport to a department of transport to spearhead the implementation of the vehicle policy.

Under the new policy, all government vehicles from now onwards shall be required to have minimum third party insurance coverage and that the life expectancy of government vehicles shall not exceed 7 years.

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