Monday, July 16, 2018

Right2Know (Gambia) demands that parliamentary inquiry into SEMLEX be open, extended and outcome debated in National Assembly

Right2Know (Gambia), a non-profit advocacy organization established a year ago to reduce the level of state secrecy in the way we are governed, increase access to information, and to protect freedom of expression, all in an effort to promote a clean, open and transparent government today filed a letter of complaint to the Chairperson (Hon. Momodou Sanneh, Deputy Speaker) of the Standing Committee on Defence and Security of The Gambia's National Assembly expressing grave concerns about the ways the National Assembly has elected to carry out the Inquiry into the SEMLEX contract.
Hon. Momodou L.K. Sanneh, Deputy Speaker 

Back in March, the Right2Know (Gambia) addressed a letter to the  leadership of the National Assembly to test the vibrancy of our new found democratic freedoms in the New Gambia by subjecting the Semlex contract to a public inquiry.  Recognizing the capacity issues that permeates the entire governance infrastructure, R2K offered support to assist, in any and every way possible, to ensure the call for a motion is adopted, debated and executed.

Although an Inquiry is being conducted, R2K is concerned that the appeal made last March is being adhered to y the National Assembly which is deeply worrying to the organization.  For instance, the fact that the mover of the motion, Hon. Madi Ceesay - Serrekunda East, is not involved in the Inquiry.  This is a highly unusual development, according to the R2K letter addressed to the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Defence and Security, copied to concerned diplomatic missions in the Gambia, the Pan African Parliament, ECOWAS Parliament and the Inter Parliament Union.

The July 11th, 2018 statement by Mrs. Amie Bojang-Sissoho, Director of Press and Public Relations, Office of The President regarding the SEMLEX contract was also characterized as both "baffling and alarming".  The Press Director reiterated a position government held in over a year that "on the printing of national identity cards, SEMLEX is the contractor and the details of the contract are being reviewed.  The President has been briefed that the review process of the Agreement with SEMLEX is at the final stages."

This statement appears to have been constructed to have the desired preemptive effect since the National Assembly Inquiry is yet to take off the ground.  In short, the Office of The President has issued the final verdict on the matter, regardless of the outcome of the parliamentary inquiry.  Executive Orders and directives from State House still appear to be norm in committing public resources, superseding all public procurement processes. 

The non-profit advocacy organization also sought from the Chairman of the Standing Committee to clarify the supposed 10-day time frame allotted to the Inquiry for such a muddled up and complex procurement process that engulfed the SEMLEX contract award.

This process involves biometrics contracting, individual identities, private information, and other individual and collective assets such as passports (given to Africard owned by Mohamed Bazzi, who is being investigated by the Janneh Commission, and has supposedly had his own assets frozen by the Government of The Gambia and is currently blacklisted by the U.S. Government.  In a nutshell, more time, and not less, is needed to invite witnesses as called for in the ToR proposed by R2K.

Finally, R2K stated emphatically that they will not "allow our passports, driver's license, car registrations, death certificates and voters cards (which was blatantly illegal as it breached the Elections Act), to be outsourced to a company that is being investigated by Belgian authorities for illegal and corrupt practises."  In doing so, the organization demanded that the Inquiry be public like the Janneh Commission, its Terms of Reference be made public, citizens and experts be invited to proffer submission about the case and that the findings be debated by the National Assembly.


Disclosure:  I'm a co-founder of the 7,000-member Right2Know - Gambia, a non-profit advocacy organization, rapidly growing into an army of young, energetic and conscientious activists to protect our newly found democratic freedoms as means of promoting a clean, open and transparent government in The Gambia.