Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gambia hosts regional IFAD forum

The Gambia will this year host the 7th Regional Forum for IFAD-funded Projects from 12th to 15th, November 2012.

Ms Mpouma Logmo Geraldine
According to Ms Mpouma Logmo Geraldine, communication consultant of IFAD - International Fund for Agricultural Development – about 300 delegates comprising representatives from IFAD-funded projects in West and Central Africa, governments’ representatives and NGOs working with IFAD.  The delegates will discuss among others things how to continuously improve the performance of IFAD-funded projects and grants in terms of relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency. 

This year’s theme: ‘Result-based management for sustaining rural poverty reduction: lessons learned and challenges’, reflects IFAD and Governments' determination to fulfill their promise to deliver better results that positively touches the lives of the rural poor.

Ms Geraldine said objectives of the annual forum, hosted by Gabon last year, include highlighting and sharing the knowledge, experience and lessons that have evolved during the project implementation period, including areas of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and the threats to further and sustained progress.

She said the forum will give the delegates the opportunity to discuss the experiences of selected successful projects so as to learn how they effectively linked and enhanced the relationship between inputs, interventions, outputs to achieve the expected results and impacts.

Office of the President intervenes to regulate foreign exchange business

but does it have the mandate to do so?

President Yahya Jammeh
The Office of the President has issued a stern warning that very drastic action will be taken against any individual or business found culpable of foreign currency hoarding and speculating, as it launches operation no compromise on such practices with immediate effect.

The prompt intervention of the government is meant to reduce the selling rate of dollar by foreign exchange dealers from D34 a dollar (the current market price) to D28 a dollar, which is said to be the true value of a dollar to dalasi.  As a first step to curb “this nefarious activity” of foreign currency hoarding and speculating, the all powerful office has imposed a moratorium with immediate effect on all shipping of the US Dollar out of The Gambia with possible exemption for essential importation, which must obtain prior clearance from the Office.

A financial analyst, who wished not to be name, said the revised regulations for the licensing and operation of foreign exchange bureaus states that every bureau is free to quote its selling and buying rates.

Besides that, the analyst said, the legal power to regulate the financial industry and the foreign exchange business is that of the Central Bank of the Gambia and not the Office of the PresidentTo the analyst, Office of the President should have simply waited for the Central Bank to do its works rather than doing it for them.
The primary objectives of the Central Bank include promoting and maintaining the stability of the currency of The Gambia and as such it should formulate and implement monetary policy aimed at achieving this objective.

“Besides, foreign exchange business is like any other trade of buying and selling.  The Gambia being a free market economy the prices of things are determined by the interaction of demand and supply – the forces of the market.  So if demand is higher than supply the price tends to go up and that is what we have seen happening in the foreign exchange business,” the analyst said.  “Of recent, the demand of foreign currencies particularly the US dollar is up because this is the pilgrimage time and all the pilgrims need some dollars as pocket money.  This has partially caused the demand of the dollar to go up and probably the supply does not commensurate the demand causing the buying rate to increase.”

University of The Gambia Vice Chancellor Confirmed as a Corrupt Administrator?

Prof. Kah, Vice Chancellor of University of The Gambia
Magistrate Taiwo Ade Alagbe of the Banjul Magistrates’ Court on 4th October delivered a judgment in the false information trial involving Dr Gumbo Touray, former University of The Gambia Director of International Affairs.  After a long period of trial punctuated by legal arguments and counter arguments by the defence counsel and the state prosecutor, the Magistrate did not found Dr Touray guilty of any wrongdoing by writing a petition against the Vice Chancellor of the UTG, Professor Muhammadou Kah, to the President Yahya Jammeh, the Chancellor of the University.  

The Magistrate therefore acquitted and discharged Dr Touray accordingly.  This is an indication that the allegation by the State against Dr Touray for giving false information to a public officer holds no water, unless they appeal the judgment of Magistrate Alagbe and prove it otherwise. 

In the petition to President Jammeh, Dr Touray accused Prof. Kah of squandering the university’s resources and engaging in nepotism and cronyism by employing his relatives and friends, real corrupt practices.

Dr. Touray also accused Prof. Kah of dismantling the university’s councils and committees and giving favours to foreign staff, much to the anger of Gambian staff.

These are real corrupt practices claimed to be done by someone the society and the whole country should look up to as a role model both in academics and mode of administration. 

Now acquitting and discharging Dr Touray without seeing any iota of false information in his petition is a confirmation that all he said there is the truth and nothing but the truth.  In fact he was praised by the Magistrate as a patriotic citizen who did not keep silence on the situation of the UTG but rather exposed the maladministration of the university by Prof. Kah.

Over $1.6 billion traded in the currency markets of Gambia annually without any visible impact on the economy, says Halifa Sallah

Halifa Sallah

The opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Organization for Independent and Socialism (PDOIS) have noted that over 1.6 billion dollars is traded in the currency markets of The Gambia annually without any visible impact on the four fundamental pillars of the economy, namely: public sector investment, private sector investment, cooperative sector investment and informal sector investment.

This is why we refer to the Gambian Economy as a transit economy. Monies appear to be leaving the country as fast as they enter rather than nestling in one sector to generate economic growth and employment, the party’s Secretary General Halifa Sallah told journalists during a press conference held on October 20, 2012 at the Peoples’ Centre in Churchill’s Town.

According Mr Sallah, during the 1999 financial year, the APRC administration used to indicate the annual gross turnover of public enterprises and their contribution to the budget which amounted to 82 million dalasi. Now dividends from public enterprises are recorded as zero, he said.

He said a PDOIS led government would ensure that the annual turnover of public enterprises is scientifically calculated and made known to the public as a matter of duty and that performance contracts would be signed with all public sector operators to ensure that dividends are scientifically calculated and increased on annual basis to build up the account of sovereign national wealth.

“The Gambia earnings from mineral resources have been elusive. PDOIS intends to make these earnings transparent and instrumental in promoting public sector investment,” he said.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gambian journalists denied entry at the Supreme Court by security agents

Sainey Marenah

Binta Bah
 Journalists working for the Standard and Daily News, two newspapers closed down in September were on Monday denied entry at the Supreme Court in Banjul to cover the case involving former chief of defence staff, Lang Tombong Tamba and six others who are appealing the death sentence verdict handed to them by the High Court. 

Binta Bah and Sainey Marenah from the Daily News and Standard respectively were prevented from attending the court proceeding by plain clothes security officers who claimed the order to stop them had emanated from the Office of the President.

The duo said “we were told by a plain clothes officer (a member of national intelligence agency) that since our media houses are closed – no more publishing - we should not cover the case anymore.”

However, Binta was let in after telling the officer that she was a blogger as well so will use her blog to publish the story.

“I was later let in but after about 15 minutes I was told by the state security agent that the director of press at the State House, Modou Saidy, said he was not aware of my blog because my blog is not registered so I should not cover the case as my paper is no longer publishing” Ms Bah explained.

“The officer said they operate on directives and he is given a directive that we are not allow to cover the case anymore. ‘Sorry but you have to go out, he officer told me’,” Binta added.

Bai Matarr Drammeh: “The greatest enemies of the GCCI are the membership”

Bai Matarr Drammeh, outgoing GCCI president

The outgoing president of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and industry (GCCI), Bai Matarr Drammeh, has noted that the greatest enemies of the Chamber are the members who keep on blaming the Chamber for not doing anything while they don’t bring any issue that needs solution from the Chamber.

Mr Drammeh’s comment was prompted by many questions, comments and concerns as to the efficiency of the GCCI raised by the members present at its annual general meeting held on 5th October, 2012 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi,

Pa Sulay Secka of Pass Trading Enterprise said the GCCI should be doing more to protect the indigenous businesses for them to be able to growth and create more employment opportunities. 

Ousainou Dambell of DBC said it will be difficult for the indigenous businesses to compete with the powerful and well established businesses if they are left like that - without any protection. “The businesses should be protected first for them to stand on a strong footing to compete internationally,” he said.  He claimed that many local businesses in the country are suffering from lack of protection.

Both Mr Secka and Dambell claimed that the GCCI is not doing much to protect and create conducive environment for local businesses to flourish.

For Papa Yusupha Njie of Unique Solutions businesses in the country are “facing very difficult times” and that the Chamber should be doing more to support its members. 

Mr Njie said when the Senegalese chamber of commerce wants to meet the president of Senegal to table their constraints, they can see him within 24 hours because they are very proactive and working for their members “that is the type of chamber we want in The Gambia” – a chamber that is very active and working for the needs of its members.  Papa Njie’s comment was applauded by the members. 

In response to Papa Njie’s comment, Bai Matarr Drammeh said Senegalese chamber can meet the president of Senegal within a very short notice because the leader, (the president of the chamber), is appointed politically, like many other francophone countries within the sub-region.

He said:  “I think the issue of Senegalese wanting to meet the president of their country and within a couple of hours they are able to that is because they have political appointment.  The president of the chamber of commerce is appointed politically (by the government).  In The Gambia, we are private sector totally without any funding by the government and therefore we will see government when they have time for us.” 

NRA asked to account for D85 million meant for road maintenance

The National Roads Authority (NRA) must explain how or where it spent some D85 million which was meant to be spent on road maintenance.

The NRA, on October 4, 2012, appeared before the National Assembly select committees responsible for scrutinizing the performance and financial status of government institution, the Public Accounts and Public Enterprise Committees (PAC/PEC).

The Committees doubts the credibility and feasibility of the reports submitted to it by the NRA, which they said contains numerous unanswered questions.

“I don't think it is feasible for us to adopt the reports because more than 53 questions directed by the honorable members were not substantially answered satisfactorily,” stressed Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Bojang exhorted the management and board of NRA to rework on the report to provide answers to the questions raised by the select committees.

According to Hon. Lamin K Jammeh, member for Illiasa constituency, D100 million was requested for road maintenance for the year (2011) but the report indicates only D15 million was spent.

“So where is the remaining D85 million? That is a question that needs to be answered by the NRA,” Hon Jammeh said.

Gambia security officer allegedly involved in drug deal

The police in Banjul have brought criminal charges against Musa B. Sanneh, a member of the President Yahya Jammeh-established joint-security organisation, Operation Bulldozer.

Operation Bulldozer, a brain-child of the Gambian leader, was setup in May 2012 for what Yahya Jammeh said was meant to “clean the country of criminals.”

Sanneh, a soldier, who is accused of selling heroin, a prohibited drug, to one Vesna Faye Milosavljevic at the tune of D12, 700, made his second appearance at the Kanifing Municipality Magistrates’ Court on October 8, 2012.

He is standing trial on three charges - abuse of office, corrupt practices, and destroying evidence.

Sanneh, who is being represented by Counsel Moses B. Johnson Richards, has denied the charges.   

However, the case could not proceed on Monday following the absence of the defence counsel.

The Presiding Magistrate, Sheriff B. Tabally, warned that the court shall discharge the case if the defence counsel fails to appear in the next adjourned date of 15 October, 2012.  The police prosecutor in the case is Chief Inspector Jammeh.

NYSS says government subvention not encouraging

The National Youth Service Scheme (NYSS), a government-established skills training center, which depends entirely on monthly government subvention, has said the way that the government is paying these subventions is least encouraging.

This was disclosed by NYSS’s Accountant, Mr. Edward B. Wright, in his financial report to the Public Account and Public Enterprise Committees (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly on October 8, 2012.

“Most of the time NYSS financed its operations through bank overdrafts and this make it impossible to remit the tax deduction from staff to Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) because banks always refuse to honor such payments,” Mr Wright said on Monday.

According to him, when NYSS subvention is suppressed or underpaid it reflects directly on the budgeted activities and this resulted in the significant variances.

“NYSS will liaise with Ministry of Youth and Sports, and Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs forthwith to remit the arrears outstanding to GRA with immediate effect,” he said.

Gambia Competition Commission decries ‘insufficient funding’ from government

The executive secretary of the Gambia Competition Commission (GCC), has lamented the insufficient funding given to his institution by the government for the year 2011.

Mr. Amadou Ceesay said the budget submitted by the Commission to The Gambia government to enable it operate efficiently and effectively in the year 2011 was D25 million. “But only a paltry D7.9 million was given,” he lamented.

“This amount was only able to cover the Commission’s administrative expenses while the Commission had to seek financial and material support from international organizations, which were disposed to supporting newly-established, fledgling and under-funded institutions like ours (the GCC) to realize our planned activities,” he revealed.

However, he acknowledged the GCC has received financial support from various institutions like the European Union through its TradeCom project, the Small States Network for Enterprise Development (SSNED), the African Competition Forum (ACF), and International Development Research Centre (IDRC).

Mr. Ceesay was presenting the 2011 financial report of the GCC to the joint session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committees (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly on October 3, 2012.   

The PAC/PEC adopted the reports of the GCC and commended Commission for its “stable annual activity and audited financial reports.” They noted that the reports are “binding and brilliant.” 

The primary responsibility of the GCC is to ensure that anti-competitive practices in the Gambia economy do not exist or are minimized. This, it does through the investigation of possible anti-competitive behaviour by enterprises.

Loan repayment poses “major threat” to Gambia’s ability to attain sustainable growth

Dr. Aja Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice President of The Gambia, has noted with concern that debt servicing still poses a major threat to Gambia and other African countries’ ability to attain sustainable growth while calling on the Bretton Wood institutions, like the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, to consider debt cancellation to these countries.

GCCI CEO, Almami Taal
Dr. Isatou Njie-Saidy told the United Nations 67th General Assembly held in New York in September 2012 that for developing countries to continue to benefit from the appreciable growth they are experiencing and in order to compromise their capacities to bring education and healthcare to their peoples, debt cancellation or forgiveness is still a major option.

The Gambia government’s high debt burden, which continues to rise by the day and interest payment of which consumes more than 22% of the public revenues, is crowding out other public expenditures as there is no space to increase funding for employment creation, purchase drug for the hospitals, and other pressing national needs.

The World Bank has warned that the debt dynamics of The Gambia are dragging down the economy and cold undermine growth in the future and if care is not taken it could take the country down the path of a vicious low growth cycle.

Poverty is endemic in The Gambia, with almost a third of the population undernourished and 60% of the population living on less than a dollar a day. And yet the country spent lion of the national budget on servicing debts. 

GCCI undergoing financial constraints

 Unable to fulfill missions towards members

The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), apex body of the private sector operators in the country, is undergoing difficulties constraint hence not able to meet its needs, fulfill its missions toward members, and also unable to hire more professional staff to be part of the team to run daily affairs of the Secretariat effectively, Gambia News Online can reveal.  

GCCI CEO, Almami Fanding Taal
“In adequate financial resources has been a major setback for GCCI in terms of addressing the growing demands of the private sector,” the annual reports and financial statements for the years 2006 – June 2012 of the Chamber has stated. 

Due to financial predicament, the GCCI membership training has not been conducted for quite some time owing to the cost involved; it was difficult to mobilize interested participants.

The report, presented at the annual general meeting of the GCCI held on 5th October, 2012 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel in Kololi, said the dinner lecture series of the Chamber was suspended due to lack of follow up and financial support.

The Gambia News Online understands that some members and partners of the GCCI were becoming reluctant in sponsoring or being part of GCCI activities organized for the membership, causing financial constraints for the Chamber.

Due to lack of effective implementation of its missions towards members as a result of insufficient finances, the Chamber is finding it difficult to retain current membership and also recruitment of new members is a daunting challenge.    

PIWAMP rated on top for wonderful performance

The Participatory Integrated Watershed Management Project (PIWAMP), a project that continues to positively touch the lives of thousands of Gambian households particularly those in rural areas, has been top rated for its wonderful performances, achievements and financial managements.

The project is ranked fourth in the 2011 Fiduciary Ratings of the top ten IFAD supported projects in West and Central Africa.  The IFAD’s Fiduciary Ratings compares the total financial investment of a project against it achievements.  PIWAMP is rated fourth best performing project among 45 IFAD - International Fund for Agricultural Development - supported projects in West and Central Africa, as end of June 2012. 

This was announced at Financial Management training workshop held in Rome, Italy in August 2012.  
Mr. Momodou Gassama, project coordinator of PIWAMP, said:  “This is the first time PIWAMP is ranked among the top ten best performing projects in West and Central Africa.”