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NAM warns Agric officials against future delay in supply of fertiliser

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By Omar Bah

The Latrikunda NAM, Yaya Sanyang, has warned officials of the ministry of agriculture that the Assembly will not take excuses from them in the future concerning delays in the procurement of fertiliser.

On Monday, the National Assembly Select Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development summoned officials of the ministry of agriculture and GGC to review Procurement documents of fertiliser meant for farmers.

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Prices of fertilizer have jumped from D750 in 2021 to D2, 500  per bag in 2022 generating a lot of condemnation from farmers who said they cannot afford it. The government has since further subsidised the prices which bring it down to D2000 per bag. The hike in price is been attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine which affected the global supply chains.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Hassan Jallow caused controversy when he told MPs that he had no idea about the purchase or procurement of fertilizer and so he cannot comment on the issue.

When asked by the committee’s acting chairperson, Yahya Sanyang whether he meant he would not answer questions on the issue. PS Jallow responded: “I don’t think so”.

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But Honourable Sanyang told PS Jallow that as the permanent secretary he is supposed to be the chief technocrat of the ministry and that the whole process of procurement happened under his mandate. “You want to say you don’t have anything to say? Is that what you are telling us?” PS Jallow however insisted that he has not been involved in the recent fertilizer procurement process and so he cannot comment on it.

But an unhappy Sanyang told the agriculture officials that Gambian farmers cannot continue to suffer because of procurement malpractice and negligence as he rejected their claims of working under pressure.

“Business cannot be as usual – If it happens again, I will move a motion for this committee to set up a commission of enquiry by way of section 109 subsection 3 paragraph C of the 1997 constitution to investigate the officials involved and prosecute them. The outcomes of the commission will not be submitted to the Executive for action, instead, it will be tabled at the National Assembly for action,” he stressed.

“Our farmers cannot continue to suffer due to procurement malpractices and negligence,” he added.

According to the lawmaker GGC awarded Zain-Enterprise a contract to supply 10, 000 tons of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium at the tune of D9,655,000.00 but the committee later realised that there were inconsistencies.

“The contract approved by Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) for Zain-enterprise was 10,000 tons but the contract document signed indicated that the company supplied only 7,000 metric tons. You cannot convince us that you were working under pressure because you are experts in your area,” Sanyang tensely said.

On the agriculture officials’ concerns over delays of disbursement of funds from the ministry of finance, Honourable Sanyang said the officials should reach out to the committee whenever they encounter delay in accessing finance. The NAM said his committee will engage the GPPA on why they approved restricted tenders.

Reacting to the concerns raised by the committee, GGC boss Muhammed Njie, said his office’s mandate is to purchase the fertilizer but the government approves the funds. He said the fertiliser price hike is caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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