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Friday, October 7, 2022

GPA declines Assembly’s order to share report of corruption investigation

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By Tabora Bojang

The Gambia Ports Authority has declined a directive issued by the Public Petitions Committee of the National Assembly to share with the public the findings of its preliminary internal investigations into an alleged corruption scandal implicating a number of senior and junior staff of the institution.

Earlier this year, some GPA staff were alleged to have been involved in widespread theft and corruption with millions of dalasis being fleeced every week.

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The Gambia’s top information portal, What’s On Gambia, made it a cause célèbre and whipped public fury over the matter prompting the management to establish an internal task force to investigate the matter.

The three-member panel submitted its report to the management in March 2022 resulting in the suspension of the manager of the Ratings Unit Alagie Marong, his assistant Yandeh Mbenga, the assistant manager at Delivery and Documentation Unit Ousainou Cham, supervisor John C Loum, senior clerks Raki Bah, Kumba Sarr and Bintou Janneh, and superintendents Binta Sallah and Sohna Bojang.

A heightened public uproar for tougher actions prompted two concerned Gambians to petition the Public Petitions Committee of the Assembly to compel the GPA share the internal investigation report with the public for transparency purposes.

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The committee held several engagements with both GPA management and the petitioners with lawmakers finally ordering the GPA to share the report as requested by the petitioners.

But GPA spokesperson, Yankuba Manneh, told The Standard last evening that the authority replied to the parliamentary committee last week stating its objection to comply with the directive.

“Publishing that inconclusive report may prejudice the outcome of the ongoing investigations,” Manneh told The Standard.

“The management has invited the police to launch an investigation into the matter and after a month the police wrote back to the management and recommended that the National Audit Office be involved to do a parallel investigation. The management complied and engaged the NAO to investigate from January 1st 2019 to 31st December 2021. This exercise has commenced and the NAO has been given an office at the port. They are to go into each transaction within this period to provide the management a fair idea of what was going on. The internal report only spanned three weeks and management felt it was not conclusive and therefore not prudent enough to publish the report. What if the names of persons alleged to be involved are found to be innocent and we already published their names?” the spokesperson queried.

He said the GPA wrote to the petitions committee last week requesting for a face-to-face meeting for them to explain these and other reasons that prevented them from sharing the report with the public.

Asked if this may not tantamount to contempt of the National Assembly, Manneh averred that the management is conscious of that and that was why they requested for a meeting. 

The chairman of the Public Petitions Committee and Member for Wuli East, Suwaibou Touray, said he is yet to see the GPA response but promised the committee will internally review the GPA response and come up with a decision.

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