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Friday, April 16, 2021

NAM Claims Gov’t Mismanaged Covid-19 Funds

By Omar Bah

The National Assembly member for Upper Fulladu West, Sana Jawara has accused the Health Ministry of over-pricing buckets and hand sanitisers they purchased for lawmakers.
The health ministry reportedly used D3.2 million of the first D12 million Covid-19 funds to procure buckets and sanitary items for the National Assembly members for onward delivery to their various constituencies.

But the UDP lawmaker and a member of the National Assembly special  Select Committee monitoring the State of Emergency, said the ministry’s claims that they spent such amount on the said items are unjustifiable.
Jawara further said his committee has identified serious lapses and gaps especially in the procurement of materials.

“This is actually a very big concern and I tell you it is not only the ministers who might be found wanting… it is basically everybody involved in the procurement of these items, especially the procurement department of the Ministry of Health. We think there is a case they will have to answer; to explain to the Gambian people how these procurements are conducted and how they can justify some of the spending,” he told The Standard.

He continued: “The ministry claimed that they spent D1.3 million to buy buckets for parliamentarians. But some of us received 17 buckets, some even 5 buckets. This is unjustifiable. In fact, when we made our calculations, we realised that they spent less than D300, 000 on the buckets. They also claimed to have spent D1.9 million on hand sanitisers for the NAMs alone. This is not true. This is not possible. I received about 19 hand sanitisers and some members received zero”, Hon Jawara said.

He said his committee has realised that there is foul play across the board “not only the top but people who are going to buy these items. We have opened an enquiry into these issues and anybody found wanting, the National Assembly will ensure that those people don’t go unpunished”.

Continuing his observations, Jawara added: “We are Gambians. You cannot come and tell us the same buckets we bought for D200 or maximum D300 cost you D2000 or more. That is not possible. There must be foul play somewhere and whosoever came up with that defence must provide proofs. We have to see the procurement plans and invoices; we are not going to listen to any verbal argument. We want to see the evidence.

“…and anybody who can come up with evidence of buying a bucket for D2000, we will have to find out where you buy them and if anybody is found complicit, it wouldn’t matter whether you are actually a trader or a procurement officer…you will not go unpunished. You cannot use this state of public emergency to enrich yourselves.”
The outspoken NAM said his committee is preparing recommendations to the National Assembly Preliminary Committee who will review and adopt the recommendations and recommend for further actions.

“But even if the preliminary committee fails to take actions, the Chief Justice will come into play to constitute a panel to open enquiry into these issues,” he added.
Jawara argued that the overall government response to the Covid-19 has been very poor.
“What we observed is that there is no proper preparedness and coordination between executive members in terms of enforcement of the Covid-19 regulations. There is no training for the people who are supposed to enforce these regulations and the implementation procedure is wrong because the two institutions identified to enforce these regulations are local government authorities and the securities. But unfortunately, the local councils are left in the dark. So it is really pathetic,” he concluded.

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