Friday, August 25, 2017

Joint Parliamentary Committee (PAC/PEC) is on a witch-hunting expedition

This is a republication of a May 29th, 2015 piece that touched on the Brikama plant which, I hope, will help the reader appreciate the daunting task facing the Commission of Inquiry into Jammeh's illicit wealth.


Mr, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, Jammeh's hatchet man
To watch the so-called Public Accounts and Public Enterprises (PAC/PEC), the Joint Parliamentary Committees from afar gives one the impression that they are hard at work trying to weed out corruption but a closer look reveals quite the opposite.

First, the membership of the PAC/PEC is the first indication that it is a deliberated constructed body not to weed out corruption per se, but to protect from scrutiny and accountability, the Jammeh cronies embedded in every public enterprise.  The membership is stacked with relatives and staunch protectors of the person of Yaya Jammeh.  Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the Chairman of the PAC/PEC is one such character.

Second, the PAC/PEC appears to be deliberately targeting certain individuals and officials of public enterprises with biased and leading questions that suggest culpability instead of attempting to understand the audit figures and the independent and qualifying statements of the auditors with the objective of reaching the truth and not to cover the corrupt practices of Yaya Jammeh and his business cronies.

The cherry picking of candidates to be grilled before the joint committee became obvious when the Managing Director of NAWEC was allowed to describe the organizational chart of his organization and abruptly excused without any question about the financial performance of one of the poorly managed with highly dubious business transactions that involves Jammeh and his business partner named Muhamed Bazzi.

The Managing Director of NAWEC was spared the pain and embarrassment of having to explaining the ownership of the Brikama plant.  Was it sold by Bazzi to NAWEC?  What are the terms and conditions of sale, if indeed the ownership transfer did occur?  Did Jammeh force the sale?  These are questions that the joint committee should have asked the MD of NAWEC but failed to.  We hope more light will be shed on this and other transactions by the restructuring exercise scheduled to take place under the IMF bail-out - assuming that the staff monitored program is not derailed before it starts in earnest because of recent development on the monetary front.

In responding to questions by National Assembly members during the tabling of the Appropriations Bill of 2015, former Finance Minister, Kebba Touray revealed - perhaps inadvertently - in explaining the ballooning domestic debt revealed that the government had to "spend on behalf of NAWEC.  The size of this expenditure, according to the Minister was equivalent to 2.5% of GDP which we estimate to be in the region of D 783,000,000.  The nature of the expenditure was never explained - neither by former Finance Minister Touray nor by the current Managing Director of NAWEC.

Another public enterprise that has a lot to answer to is the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA).  PAC/PEC will be doing a great service to the Gambian people by asking the Managing Director about the purchase of the two ferries "Aljamdu" and "Kansala" that are currently moored on the Banjul seafront because they were ill-fitted and ill-designed to be put to service.  Several millions of dollars have been spent or committed that involved a Greek company that entered into a joint venture with GPA. The details of the joint ventureship are unknown to the Gambian people and why the two ferries are still moored.  The ownership of these vessels as well as the joint venture should have been the center of the probing of PAC/PEC.

In addition to NAWEC and GPA,  PAC/PEC should be probing the likes of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, Gamtel/Gamcell, Civil Aviation Authority and Gambia Groundnut Corporation.  Instead, PAC/PEC chose to go after the disbanded Gambia National Lottery (GNL) and other small fries because Jammeh's conflict of interest and his blatant corrupt practices will be exposed should the joint parliamentary committee conduct a serious probes into NAWEC, GPA, SSHFC, CAA and others.

We will continue to monitor PAC/PECs biased and uneven application of  parliamentary rules and procedures to advance the partisan politics and the financial interest of one man - Yaya Jammeh - instead of the interest of The Gambia and its people.