By Omar Bah
The managing director of the Gambia Printing and Publishing Corporation has denied allegations that his management inflated the price of a bioclimatic exercise book printing machine the president inaugurated in 2019. According to insiders at GPPC, the management allegedly “overpriced” the bioclimatic printer which reportedly cost the corporation D50 million.
Our sources alleged that the machine is not new and could not have been bought for D50 million and it was bought before the approval of the GPPA.
“It was repainted to look new before the inauguration just to fool the president,” an insider told The Standard. The GPPC MD said at the inauguration in 2019 that the machine has the capacity of printing between 18,500 to 22, 000 exercise books in an hour and capable of meeting the country’s exercise books supply as well as exporting to the regional market. Former minister of information, Ebrima Sillah, also told the inauguration that if the machine is optimally utilised it could generate between D700 million and D1 billion for the GPPC annually and save the country $4 million annually. Minister Sillah said the country used to spend $4 million annually to print exercise books outside.
But according to our insiders, since the installation of the machine, it has not printed 10, 000 exercise books a day without having a breakdown.
When contacted for comments, the GPPC managing director, Momodou Ceesay, said the “allegations” are false and only meant to tarnish the reputation of his management who have done a tremendous amount of work over the years to revive the corporation.
“The overall amount spent on the machine from purchase to maintenance and installation is around D50 million but the machine itself was bought for 303, 000 Euros; D16, 928, 610 million. We followed due process throughout because we have nothing to hide. Even when the president came for the inauguration, I told him the machine is refurbished but it’s in good condition and even the president acknowledged that,” MD Ceesay said.
He said the machine is unable to print the targeted amount of 22, 000 exercise books per hour because the printers at the GPPC don’t have the requisite knowledge to operate it. “We have even brought technicians from abroad to come and train them, but we still have a challenge when it comes to the capacity of our printers,” he said. The Standard has seen a GPPA letter dated 30th July 2017 approving 303, 000 Euros as purchase fees for the machine and the GPA bill of lading dated 1st April 2019 indicating the machine arrived in the country in 2019. But our sources said the technician the management brought only came to fix the machine and briefly introduced the team of printers on how to operate it.
Police licence disc
According to our sources, in December 2021 a senior supervisor at the GPPC was allegedly caught printing licence discs purportedly meant for the police amounting to over D4 million but when the matter was reported to the MD, he decided to kill the case. But reacting to the allegation, the GPPC boss said: “That is not true. I have never received such a report against any of my staff.”
The Standard contacted a senior staff at the GRA about the issue, who said the authority has stopped issuing licences because they have noticed that many people acquired them “fraudulently”.
The unhappy GPPC insiders also complained about lack of payment for their overtime since 2019. They alleged that whenever they ask for the payment of overtime, the management will tell them there is no money and staff who protested were either dismissed or redeployed to other departments.
The GPPC production manager, Essa Camara, admitted that the corporation has not paid some of the overtime arrears owed to the staff since 2019. But he said his office has already submitted the names of those who are eligible, and the internal auditors are verifying them for onward payment.
“The problem is that most of the staff are not filling the overtime forms on time or as required and without that the management cannot process their payments,” Camara said. He said the management has even started effecting the payments for the 2019 arrears.
Commenting on the dismissal or redeployment claims, MD Ceesay said those allegations are baseless and completely opposite the truth.
“It is true that we acted against some staff who disobeyed the rules and regulations of the corporation, but I cannot remember dismissing or redeploying any staff for failing to report for overtime. You can check with the internal audit; they will tell you the number of warning letters we sent to some of these staff,” he said.
Our sources also alleged that GPPC staff are deducted for their social security dues, but the monies are never paid to social security.
MD Ceesay admitted that the corporation owes SSHFC over D4 million, but he was quick to say there is an arrangement reached between his office and social security.
“Yes, we owe social security about D4 million but none of our retired staff has ever complained about not receiving their pensions. We have challenges here and there, but we are doing our utmost best to ensure that whenever our staff is retired, we immediately pay all his\her outstanding arrears,” Ceesay said.
Staff of the corporation were reportedly deducted monthly as part of an agreement the management had with Kombo Real Estate to allocate them plots of land in Makumbaya village. The staff were supposed to pay D65, 000 each in the span of 5 to 8 years and were supposed to be allocated the plots when they pay half of the money.
“We have already paid more than half of the money, but we have not been shown our plots,” our source said.
But reacting to the allegations, the admin HR manager, Binta Trawally, said the management has been working closely with the Kombo Real Estate and the staff themselves. She said the staff have been shown the plots and even allocated numbers. “We have now finalised everything and the plots have been demarcated. Very soon they will be allocated their plots,” she said.
Staff credit union
The sources also claimed that the management is deducting the staff every month for their contribution to the credit union and staff association but when the junior staff want to withdraw money, they will be told there is no money while when the MD or senior staff demand it, they get it.
But the accountant Mustapha Ceesay said these allegations are also false, saying the process of taking loans from the credit union or staff association has guidelines which many of the staff don’t meet.
Appointing family members
The GPPC boss is also accused of appointing his relatives in key positions such as the human resources manager and marketing manager and accounts, including some of the security personnel. MD Ceesay is also accused of running his own personal shop where the office bought all its computers and laptops. But when asked about this allegation, MD Ceesay said: “This is the biggest joke of the century. Ask them to tell you where my shop is, yes, I know I have friends who own shops and occasionally we do buy our materials but even that decision is not influenced by me,” he said.
Read more the management’s response next week