By Tabora Bojang
The Public Petitions Committee of the National Assembly has given Tourism Minister Hamat Bah an ultimatum to appear before the committee as part of investigations into alleged of corruption at the Gambia Tourism Board.
The committee is probing allegations of graft reported by staff of the GT Board in 2021 implicating former senior officials of the GT Board and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.
Former permanent secretary, Cordou Jabang-Senghore who is now redeployed to the Office of the Vice President, testified yesterday. She denied any wrongdoing in the awarding of contracts for the construction of eco-lodges, decision against occupying the Tropics building as agreed in the contract between GT Board and Construct Limited, and reduction or waiving of levies for investors among others.
Minister Hamat Bah was also invited to testify but did not appear. Committee members waited for over an hour before they were informed that the minister was attending “Gambia Day” in Dakar, Senegal with a Gambian delegation and could not attend.
The committee then conducted a closed-door meeting to discuss their next steps. When they finished, committee chairman Suwaibou Touray informed waiting journalists: “We are rescheduling this meeting with the Minister of Tourism. We have received a letter from the permanent secretary informing us that the minister cannot attend this meeting for reasons beyond his control. So we are rescheduling this meeting till November 1st 2023 and the minister must attend this meeting.”
The aggrieved GT Board staff, who petitioned lawmakers, accused their authorities of engaging in various corrupt practices including the awarding of contracts for the construction of eco-lodges, dubiously cancelling out a contract agreement between GT Board and Construct Limited for the construction of office complex, allocating and waiving of 3 percent from levies supposed to be paid by Kaijiang Holding Group and MOAB Capital which according to the petitioners led to the loss of over $450, 000 in revenue.
Meanwhile, former GT Board Director General Abdoulie Hydara, who is now deployed to the foreign service having been adversely mentioned in the petition, testified on Tuesday while the GT Board former Director of Finance and chairman of the contracts committee, Ousainou Senghore who was also implicated in the allegations, testified on Monday. Mr Senghore, who is now with GIEPA, denied any wrongdoing and told members that he was bitter by these allegations and called on NAMs to “take actions” against those who peddled the allegations to taint them.