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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Letters to the Editor

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On the SSHFC saga: A few questions!

Dear editor,

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It will be prudent to provide a short historical perspective on this protracted corporate ruction. When the Barrow-led Government came to power, Mr Muhammad Manjang was appointed the Managing Director of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation. At the time, the corporation was said to be battling some serious financial issues as, reportedly, the former government was using it as a milking cow. Thus, the financial situation in that ‘house’ was not in good shape.

When therefore Mr Manjang was appointed, it was thought that he will turn things round and give the corporation a push to recover. At least in one area, he was able to accomplish said goal as it has been reported that due to his austerity measures, the corporation was able to make huge profits within a short time. However, the staff of that corporation raised some concerns over Mr Manjang’s cheery-picking particular employees – one of them a girl – for overseas training on something that reportedly could have been done here at home at a lesser cost.

The staff therefore cried foul especially when it was revealed that the girl was virtually new in that office. Her choosing therefore raised some eyebrows as there were others who perhaps deserved that training better – or at least they thought they did. They first staged a protest which led them to going to the presidency where they are said to have met with the then secretary general who promised to look into the issue.

Well, that did not happen, or at least did not go far enough for these employees. Thus, led by their ‘apparently fearless’ leader and spokesperson, Mr Momodou Camara, these staff carried on with their agitation. It came to a head when they locked the doors of the corporation and blocked the entrance saying that no one will go in. This brought some heavyweights to the site to try and resolve the issue, amicably preferably, or should we say wishfully?

This saga went on acridly until it warranted the president to set up a commission to look into the problem. This commission was mandated to study and investigate the issue and report to the president within thirty days. This move was applauded by many as it was believed that that was what was needed at the time.
After a month, the commission presented its report which lay the fault at the feet of the striking staff. It recommended that some punitive measure be taken against these staff and that the board should be given room to clean their house, so to speak.

A few days after this report was delivered, another one, this time from the Office of the Ombudsman was leaked. This one though laid the blame or some of it at least, at the feet of Mr Manjang, the Managing Director. In fact, it went as far as saying that he should refund the corporation some money which he spent, illegally, allegedly.

Acting on the recommendations of the commission he set up – as required by law – His Excellency the President returned Mr Manjang to his post as he had earlier stampeded him pending the investigation. But in the same vein, gave Mr Momodou Camara early retirement with immediate effect. Life was going to return to normalcy for the staff of SSHFC, or so it seemed.

The staff of the SSHFC however, had other plans. They were not about to leave their ‘fearless’ spokesperson, Momodou Camara in the lurch. They were going to stand with, and/or go down with him. They vowed to fight to ensure that the decision of President Barrow is rescinded. They called for anther protest which they went ahead to carry out.

As in my previous write-up on this issue, I thought that the president had taken a bold and firm stance in order to strengthen institutions instead of individuals. I thought it was a great move and applauded it. But then a very objective post from Omar Touray got me thinking about this issue from a whole new perspective.

The staffs who are protesting are said to be irked – or angered – because Mr Manjang’s austerity measures were preventing them from enjoying some benefits which they wished to regain. It is said that they were also mad because Mr Manjang’s austerity measures seemed to exclude him as he was seen to have dined at the Coco Ocean Hotel to the tune of twenty-nine thousand dalasis for just one day. Again he was reported to have bought two mobile phones for one hundred and fourteen thousand dalasis. Doesn’t sound very ascetical, does it? There could be a perfect explanation for all I know.

The question here is this: According to the fiduciary of the Board of Directors of the SSHFC, aren’t they the ones who approve the benefits to staff (loans, bonuses, allowances etc.?) If the answer is yes, then aren’t they equally culpable, if not more so? If indeed this is what the staffs are after and their only interest is to re-enjoy those benefits, then the Board Members also have a case to answer.

Given that insubordination to the president can cause someone to lose their job, at best, and be prosecuted at worst, is it not possible that the staff have some genuine cause to not want to work with, and under Mamadou Manjang? Considering all these, it looks like we are not being told everything, or that someone is being left to hold the can in this case?

The saying that there is no smoke without fire comes to mind here; it says that someone is being economical with the whole truth. Just some food – or points – for thought here before we go ballistic blaming Manjang or the staff. Let us take a step back and look again. We may have better perspective then. Or not!

Musa ‘Scribbler’ Bah
Bundung

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