Senegambia Bridge revenue rights: AG Bah clashes with works PS

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By Tabora Bojang

Accountant General Momodou Lamin Bah has defended a decision by the government to transfer the collection of toll fees at the Senegambia Bridge saying it is in line with transparency and good governance as he argued with the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Works, Mod Ceesay, over the royalty rights.

Both sides were invited to update the National Assembly select committee on monitoring the implementation of government projects on the control and management of funds of the toll facility at the Senegambia Bridge. 

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Since its inauguration in January 2019, revenue collection at the bridge was administered by the GPA Ferry Services and the National Roads Authority but a government resolution last month ordered the revenue collection to be entrusted to the Accountant General’s Office while maintenance will be done by the NRA.

According to Accountant General Bah, the 1997 Constitution and the Public Finance Act 2018 have stated that all monies collected on behalf of the government must be deposited into a consolidated fund with the accountant general as the receiver general, paymaster general and the chief accounting officer.

“The NRA Act is subservient to the constitution and the Public Finance Act overrides any other provisions as far as public finance management is concerned. The bridge is a government investment and there is no issue with the new arrangement. Every institution has its core mandate and the core mandate of the Ministry of Works is not to collect revenue, or manage the finances of the government; that is the core mandate of the Ministry of Finance,” Bah argued.

He explained that the current collection arrangements at the bridge are “very expensive” to sustain adding that the new system is meant to safeguard transparency and effective accounting of government revenue.

However, the Permanent Secretary Ceesay said the grant agreement for the construction of the bridge outlined that funds generated would be used to maintain the investment and expand the infrastructure network.

“In as much as I want to support the position of the accountant general with respect to the law, it is also the same constitution that allows the finance minister to delegate responsibilities to sectors. The road fund is delegated to the NRA to manage. It was the [finance] minister who signed the grant agreement that funded the bridge and in that agreement a principle undertaken was that the funds generated would be used to maintain the investment and expand the network,” Ceesay argued.

He said the contention is not about who should be responsible for the funds, but how they are to be optimally utilised.

“[Going by the AG’s argument] why would they not take the revenue rights of the fisheries fund, the oil fund at the ministry of petroleum or the forestry fund?” he argued.

Ceesay added that these architectures were set up by the National Assembly to support sectors in their undertakings, saying road infrastructure requires huge resources.

The managing director of NRA, Momodou Senghore, said road user charges include fees levied by the NRA for the use of roads and bridges.

“So going by this definition, we are of the view that these toll fees should also be part of the road funds.  This resolution was like an instruction from the executive which we cannot dispute but comply with,” Senghore added.