Saturday, July 13, 2019

Peoples Progressive Party: Resolution of the Second Conference of Delegates held, Saturday 13th July 2019, at The Friendship Hostel, Bakau

The Peoples Progressive Party convened in its second special Delegates Conference at the Friendship Hostel in Bakau, on Saturday 13 July 2019. It was occasion for a thorough review of the life and program of the party as well as deep reflection and exchanges on future prospects.
In this regard,
Conscious, as ever, of the historic bond binding the PPP to the people of the Gambia;
Aware of the overwhelming desire among the party’s following, as well as the widespread yearning among the Gambia populace at large, for a resumed active presence of the PPP on the national political scene;
Deploring the recent actions of certain unscrupulous individuals which resulted in the rigged December Congress, a fraud-ridden election and a bare-faced attempt to hijack the party, out of inordinate ambition and in pursuance of an unavowed agenda;
Conscious of the deleterious effect of the resultant protracted intra-party dispute, including court litigation, on the life and development of the party;  
Hereby Resolve as follows:
- Reaffirm its complete rejection of the flawed Congress process and its truncated leadership election result;
- Reaffirm its strong commitment to the principles and decisions of the Bakau Declaration;
- Further reaffirm its strong support for the on-going action initiated through the courts to ensure that truth and justice prevail in all aspects of the life of the party;
- Decide to grant approval for the option canvassed for circumventing the present impasse by setting up a new and distinct party to pursue the P.P.P.’s historic mission with appropriate adjustments to reflect changing times and circumstance;
- Set up a high-level Steering Committee to immediately start work on putting this decision into effect.
Done at Bakau
13TH July 2019

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

GAMCORD Press Release: Diaspora calls on government to accelerate promised reforms, extend the franchise

Gambia: Diaspora calls on The Gambia Government to prioritize and accelerate promised reforms

Lament the disenfranchisement of at least 100,000 Gambians living abroad

Banjul, 27 June 2019- Participants of the Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy- GAMCORD, met on 10-12 June, 2019, under the theme: ‘The Diaspora’s potential for impactful reforms in times of transition’, and raised concerns over the slow progress being made in prioritizing and accelerating democratic reforms in the country. 

The conference produced a three-page Resolution, which observed that transitions are challenging, especially after 22 years of tyranny and dysfunctionality across the entire system of government.  They stated that revamping such anomalies is daunting. However, participants agreed that, there was no excuse for the slow progress being made to consolidate, promote and protect the democratic gains made, when the citizens elected to remove dictatorship from their midst. They pointed to the disintegration of the Coalition 2016, and lack of political will, as responsible factors for the deviation from promises made, which has precipitated a worrying trend of political polarization, and politics of ethnicity in the country. 

Participants also expressed shock and frustration over the actions of the government, whom they blamed for deliberately ‘engaging in a set of selective amendments, which do not inspire confidence and undermines public trust and goodwill in the current Administration.’  These, they said included the Elections Amendment Act 2017; and the Gambia Public Procurement Act 2017. Concerns were also raised about the continued disregard for environmental laws and policies. 

The conference expressed deep disappointment at the disenfranchisement of more than 100,000 Gambians, which they say violates fundamental rights of expression and universal adult suffrage.  ‘The 1997 Constitution guarantees every Gambia the right to vote and be voted for, and this has been selectively applied in every election. This illegal practice needs to cease, as a matter of urgency, to allow for Gambians abroad to vote in the upcoming referendum, and beyond’.  Failing which, delegates said they will propose legislation to align the electoral law with the 1997 Constitution, otherwise they will take legal action against the government. 

The gathering zeroed in on the corruption, a legacy of the Jammeh regime, which has crept into the Barrow Administration. Delegates requested the Office of the President to desist from interfering in contracting and procurement processes, which only entrenches the culture of secrecy and corruption.  They urged the Presidency to re-delegate such responsibilities to The Gambia Public Procurement Agency, a move they believe will ensure that transparency in contracting and procurement are in line with the laws and procedures. This will also discourage tender rigging, price fixing, cartelism and rent seeking behaviour, which are the hall marks of secrecy, corruption and arbitrariness, which is being entrenched in the Barrow administration’, the Resolution states.

The National Assembly was not spared either.  Delegates implored National Assembly members: ‘to show leadership and exercise their oversight role by ensuring that the constitutional review process is protected from political interference’.  They called on the MPs to pave the way for a referendum on the finalization of the review draft (Constitution), by passing a law that expressly provides for a vote on the proposed constitution before the 2021 general elections.
The GAMCORD Resolution focused on key sectoral areas, which were identified for urgent reforms: the security, civil, and foreign service sectors; media legislation, and accession to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM); and the educational sector. 
The two-day meeting saw about 50 participants from the Diaspora, CSOs, and private sector, also interact with the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), as formal submissions for inclusion in the review of the constitution were made through the Right to Know (R2K) Gambia chapter.  
The GAMCORD document was first drafted in January 2017.  It was shelved mainly due to the dashed expectations experienced over the period. The 2019 meeting was jointly organized by the Right 2 Know-Gambia (R2K) and others partners.  
I. To interface with the Constitutional Review Commission and exchange views on the CRC process in general and on issues specific to the relevant provisions of the Constitution that impacts directly and tangentially on the lives of Gambians living and/or working abroad.
II. To initiate / strengthen citizen driven processes, in collaboration with NAMs (particularly the Foreign Affairs Standing Committee) who derive their authority directly from the citizenry, and elevate the most pressing issues/challenges that the country must tackle if the principles of a citizenry centred developmental agenda is to be attained.  
III. To assess and identify the thematic areas of intervention (for the government, the private sector, development partners, and friends of The Gambia) through an open, systematic process commencing with an agreed to methodology, set of evidence based exercises including discussion papers, technical documents and broad national debate. 
IV. Agree to a strategic developmental and legislative agenda.
V. Ensure that the GAMCORD Conference is participatory, representative and vibrant- working with CSOs, the CRC, development partners and NAMS ensures that representation at a constituency level is guaranteed, in a strategic and systematic manner.
Right 2 Know- (R2K) Gambia, started its work in October 2016, focusing on elections integrity around the then, now famed, 2016 Presidential elections, when Jammeh was ousted from power.   Our membership/following has since grown to 10,000 people. The founders are a grouping of individuals with professional backgrounds ranging from geology, demographics, economics, international relations and law, communications, and academia.  All members are human rights activists. We are located in The Gambia, US, UK, West and Southern Africa. We are a non-partisan entity that focuses on rule of law and democracy, good governance, anti-corruption, human rights and the principles of access to information and freedom of expression.  

For more information please contact:

Monday, June 24, 2019

Barrow to hand over Gambia Port to Nigeria?

It now appears that China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) is attracting a surprising and unlikely competition from the SIFAX Group, a Nigerian company that describes itself as a conglomerate with diverse investments, in its bid to take over the GPA port facilities. 

The Chinese take over bid of the port facilities involving an investment package of $177 million ran into a snag last year when it did not meet the donor-imposed 50% grant threshold for projects that will be finance during the transition period. 

The Chinese bid enjoyed the support of the Office of The President and forcefully stirred by the Minister of Works against the wishes of the Ministry of Finance and the Board of Directors of the GPA who appeared to have been left out of the negotiations, including the consultation process. 

The ensuing fall-out resulted in the unceremonious transfer of the former GPA Managing Director, Tambadou, to the moribund Gambia Public Procurement Agency (GPPA) that is routinely bypassed in major procurement decisions of the transition government of  president Adama Barrow.

Although unclear why the sudden bromance between Barrow administration and the SIFAX Group of Nigeria despite the parallel project preparation activities underway with the African Development Bank playing the lead-lender role, what is evident is the aggressive drumbeat emanating from State House, led by Permanent Secretary, Yankuba Saidy, who heads the Investment Desk. 

Mr. Saidy's role has raised a few eyebrows because, aside from driving the SIFAX Group train through hostile territory, he is alleged to have acted as a paid consultant to the Nigerian company that prepared the proposal to take 75% of the port facilities, thus posing a monumental conflict of interest challenge to a point man to some of the most influential members of the Barrow administration.   

Mr. Saidy has been demanding the Gambia Ports Authority management to come up with what he refers to as "Counter Proposal to SIFAX Group" by the deadline of 30th May, 2019.  The GPA was also expected to propose a draft contract by the same date.  The slippage in not meeting the deadline "without showing any cause" has not been viewed kindly by State House.  Of course, the delay had to do with the myriad of extremely issues of national importance.

The cautious approach adopted by the Gambia Ports Authority has clearly frustrated Mr. Saidy who has accused the MD of GPA of "foot dragging", a term coined by the Yaya Jammeh's Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council that was interpreted as an infringement of the junta's decrees.  Many a Gambian have gone to Mile II prisons or dismissed or both.
- This is a developing story


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Communique: Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy - GAMCORD 2019

We, participants of the GAMCORD forum from the Gambian Diaspora, CSOs, and the private sector, met in The Gambia to deliberate on the theme: ‘The Diaspora’s potential for impactful reforms in times of transition’. 

Recalling the Gambia Civil Society Forum II Resolution adopted at the WACSOF convening, prior to the 49th Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government in Dakar, Senegal, on 2 June, 2015 theme: Gambia- governance, democracy and respect for the rule of law.
Recognizing that The Gambia has undergone a democratic transition through the ballot box.

Congratulating the entire Gambian citizenry for mustering the courage in exercising their right to freedom of expression and their right to vote in a candidate of their choice.
Further Congratulating the Independent Electoral Commission for discharging its mandate without fear or favour and delivering on the will of the people on December 2, 2016.

Acknowledging the supportive role played by ECOWAS, under the leadership of Her Excellency Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the governments of Senegal, Nigeria and Ghana, for their unflinching commitment to promoting the culture of democracy in West African region.

Cognizant of the fact that The Gambia has been an example to other AU member states, that an aspiration of a nation to be freed from tyranny and be governed well is possible.

Aware that transitions, in whatever form, especially given the Gambian context, is challenging.

Fully Aware that after 22 years of tyranny, and dysfunctionality across the entire system of government, revamping such anomalies is daunting.

Recognize that the 2017 National Development Plan makes a strong pronouncement of elevating the needs of the Diaspora and prioritizing their involvement in the national debates and decision making processes.

Appreciate the efforts of the current administration in establishing the transitional justice road map by deploying a Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission (TRRC), and the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC).

Expressing our full support to the TRRC and the CRC.

Further Expressing our gratitude to the CRC for according us the opportunity to interface and deliberate on core proposals that will further the quest for good democratic practice, strengthened institutions, and rule of law in the constitution and the constitutional making process.

Disappointed by the disintegration of the Coalition 2016, and the deviation from the coalition manifesto and MoU, which has precipitated a worrying trend of political polarization, and politics of ethnicity in the country.

Concerned at the dearth of leadership across the political spectrum to stem the rising tide of ethnic and regional politics.

Further Concerned that the anticipated reforms as envisaged in the Coalition 2016 Manifesto, public pronouncements of President Barrow and members of his administration are being deprioritized.

Shocked at the actions of deliberately engaging in a set of selective amendments, which do not inspire confidence and undermines public trust and goodwill in the current Administration- these include: The Elections Amendment Act 2017; and the Gambia Public Procurement Act 2017;

Condemn the continued policies of opacity of state contracts and contracting, procurement and investments in the country.

Further condemn the continued disregard for environmental laws and policies, specifically the Banjul Declaration 1977, which aimed to protect our flora and fauna, as well as the National Environmental Act 1994; Environment Management Act 1994; Forestry Act 1998; environmental regional, continental and international normative frameworks and treaties of which The Gambia is a party.

We, participants of The Gambia Conference on Reforms and Democracy GAMCORD:

Urge the Office of the President to desist from interfering in contracting and procurement processes, which only entrenches the culture of secrecy and corruption in our national contracting processes; we therefore, urge the Presidency to re-delegate such responsibilities to the appropriate institution- the Gambia Public Procurement Agency- so as to ensure that transparency in contracting and procurement are in line with the laws and procedures that discourage tender rigging, price fixing, cartelism and rent seeking behaviour, which are the hall marks of secrecy, corruption and arbitrariness.

Implore the Gambia Government to urgently act on the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) report, which documents and provides irrefutable evidence on how the country was robbed of 1 billion US dollars by ex-president Jammeh.

Further implore the Gambia Government to urgently undertake action in bringing those implicated in facilitating the looting of 1 billion US dollars, from the state, to book; and expedite the country's asset recovery efforts.

Call upon the Gambia Government to urgently review the Public Order Act to bring it in conformity with regional and international standards on freedom of assembly;

Further call upon political parties to become more proactive and engaging in the governance processes of the country, in particular to effectively and actively participate and influence, as well as monitor public policy, legislation and hold public institutions accountable.

Urge the National Assembly to play a more proactive leadership role in the performance of its oversight functions and to holding the Government accountable.

Further urge The Gambia Government to urgently convene a national conference to deliberate on the state of education in the country, which has reached a crisis point.

Call upon The Gambia Government, under the leadership of President Barrow, to elevate and prioritize a progressive and strategic legislative agenda which shall include: - An amendment to the Elections Act 2017 to align with the 1997 Constitution section 26- Political Rights, (a); (b); (c); and section 39 (1). - Embark on a robust exercise to roll out a rapid set of media legislative reforms that reflects our collective aspirations to build a democratic state - Transforming GRTS into an independent public broadcaster - Enact legislation to establish/strengthen a media/public regulatory authority in line with regional and continental standards. - Repeal/claw back the GPPA Amendment Act 2018. - Enact an Access to Information law in accordance to Article 9 of the AUCPCC, which Gambia is a signatory, and deposited its instruments ratification on 9 July 2009.

We urge the Gambia Government to prioritize security sector reforms with urgency, and consult and engage with relevant Gambian experts in the sector to deliver an effective and efficient set of changes to the sector.

We further urge the government to develop a strategic planning capacity across the civil service by creating a Planning Ministry with the primary mission of developing a rolling strategic plan for the entire economy. 

We call upon The Gambia Government to accede to the African Peer Review Mechanism-APRM by signing the MoU of the primary governance instrument in Africa, and take the necessary steps to roll out the Country Review as a matter of urgency.
We further call upon the Gambia Government to organize a national dialogue, as a matter of urgency, to address the pressing issues the country faces, which includes challenges to social cohesion.

We implore the National Assembly to show leadership and exercise its oversight role and ensure that the constitutional review process is protected from political interference and pave the way for a referendum on the finalization of the review draft, by passing a law that expressly provides for a vote on the proposed constitution before the 2021 general elections.

We support the call for the establishment of a Constitution Implementing Committee/Commission to lead and monitor the implementation of the revised constitution under the forthcoming Third Republic.

We express a willingness to work with the Gambia Government, through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to design a strategy/methodology to enable us to be accounted for through an external census.

We commit to tracking the progress and implementation of this Communique, by establishing a steering committee to follow through on agreements reached during GAMCORD 2019.

We express our resolve to continue to engage with Gambian CSOs, particularly The Association of Non-Government Organizations (TANGO), to continue to play its role in promoting good governance, strong democratic practice, and fundamental rights to protect popular participation and elevate the general principles and demand for public accountability. 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Re-publication - State House did not seek legal advice before signing the airport/border security tax contract with SECURIPORT and no exit clause in the contract.

This post, first published November 19th, 2018, was the forth and final
in a series of blogposts on the $40 airport security surcharge on arriving
and departing passengers at the Banjul International Airport that the
government is poised on putting into the effect on the 1st October, 2019.

The contract signed by the Interior Minister with the Washington-based airport security firm, SECURIPORT, and co-signed by the Director General of Immigration and the Secretary to Cabinet of the Office of The President that became effective on the 21st September, 2018 is already posing additional challenges for the Barrow government.

The $20.00 airport security tax for each airline passenger traveling to and from Banjul International Airport - or $40.00 for each return ticket holder - proposed by government to go into effect next January was immediately opposed by airlines and tour operators alike.  FTI, the German tour operator's letter of October 30th, 2018 addressed to the Secretary General informed government that proposed tax comes with added hidden costs of $15.00 due to VAT and rental commissions to be paid in the destination of origin, increasing the total figure to $55.00 instead of $40.00.

FTI's further informed the government that if it is serious in creating a conducive investment climate, authorities must guarantee that additional costs similar to those currently being contemplated will not be implemented because it will have dire consequences.  In fact, the Board of the FTI has directed that should the tax be implemented, any and all investment will be put on hold, including the $100 million the company plans on investing in The Gambia in the next 5 years.  Its summer plans are also being put on hold until an amicable resolution is found.

The TUI Group has also put the government on notice.  For many years, they have been operating to Banjul and have increased the number of flights substantially since. They operate 5 flights per week from Amsterdam and 2 flights from Brussels which means that over 21,000 seats are allocated to The Gambia this winter.  TUI also plans to operate in the summer, all of which will inevitably cause a reduction in tourism spending and therefore negatively impact the local economy should the proposed tax be allowed to take effect. 

Among the reasons advanced by IATA, the international air transport association, on behalf of member airlines was the lack of consultations with airlines prior to implementation.

The setting of airport and air navigation charges falls under the purview of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)'s policies on charges (Document 9082) and taxation (Document 8632) and the manner in which the proposed airport/border security tax was handled by the government seemed to have contravened these regulations.  Tour operators such as FTI, the German tour operator, hotel resorts and others in the business followed suit in objecting to the proposed tax.

In addition to the stiff opposition from airlines and tour operators to the new tax because of the threat it poses to the tourism sector that generates 20% of of the country's GDP as well as the second foreign exchange earner, the contract between the government and SECURIPORT was negotiated and signed without the benefit of any legal advice from the Attorney General Chambers.

And as far as it can be ascertained, the project was neither subjected to rigorous appraisal nor publicly tendered  to attract other eligible companies, making the entire transaction susceptible to standard financial and ethical scrutiny.

To further compound the problems of the government of Adama Barrow, the contract, according to our sources, doesn't have an exit clause that would allow for the contract to be terminated under certain circumstances specified in the clause.  A standard clause in a government contract gives the government the right to unilaterally terminate a contract with or without giving reason or reasons.  The contractor in certain cases is entitled to a negotiated settlement.

In the case of the SECURIPORT contract, the government can only extricate itself from the contract if it is willing to pay the contractor the full amount of the projected profit the company is projected to earn during the entire contract period of 5 years.  Insufficient due diligence was conducted on the company, otherwise it would have shown that the company's Sierra Leone experience would have been a red flag based on local reporting by Standard Times Press of a US$16M that was allegedly fraudulently billed to the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

It goes without saying that such a contract clause is as disadvantageous to the government as it is callous disregard of a fundamental norm of making use of a team of lawyers as an integral part of any contract negotiations for the singular purpose of providing legal advice.

In this case the lawyers were conspicuously absent and so where the ministry of Finance responsible for all fiscal affairs of the government, the Gambia Tourism Board and the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority responsible for managing the Banjul International Airport.


Re-publication: Border security tax is bad for Gambia's economy, bad for tourism and bad for Barrow's government

This post, first published November 14th, 2018, was the
third in a series of blogposts on the $40 airport security
surcharge on arriving and departing passengers at the
Banjul International Airport that the government is poised
on putting into effect on 1st October, 2019.

Sidi Sanneh 
The persistent and flagrant violations of the open tender process, otherwise designed to encourage and promote competition among prospective bidders, is proving to be the bane of the Barrow administration.

We have seen recently such tender violations in the SEMLEX case, the CHINA BRIDGE AND ROAD CORPORATION and now with the SECURIPORT contract for the provision of border security services at will impose a $20 security tax on arriving as well as departing airline passengers passing through Banjul International Airport.  This means that every tourist visiting The Gambia will see an additional cost of $40 every time they visit the Gambia.

There is no evidence that the award of the contract to SECURIPORT was tendered.  And if exempted, no proof exists that the rationale for the exemption.  The lack of transparency in the tender process almost always results in the wrong company being selected at greater cost to the public treasury than when the project is tendered in an open and transparent fashion.

The impact of the proposed tax is devastating because the demand for air travel is highly sensitive to air ticket prices as well as incomes.  For instance, a 10% increase in the ticket price can result in a 10% reduction in the demand for travel for international long haul leisure flight (elasticity -1.0).  It is therefore important for government to plan well in advance for a series of consultations and to engage an air travel consultant, if necessary, with stakeholders, airlines, tour operators, hotel owners and local tourism-based enterprises.

Obviously, the process that the government adopted lacked transparency and was deliberately exclusionary.  Not only were tour operators excluded from the process that resulted in the border security tax, even government departments such as the Ministry of Finance responsible for all fiscal matter of the Government, the Ministry of Works which is the line ministry of the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority responsible for managing Banjul International Airport and as far as be ascertained, the Tourism Board.

As we have reported recently, the contract was negotiated and signed by the Minister of Interior, Director General of Immigration and the Cabinet Secretary for Government and The General Manager of SECURIPORT (Gambia).  Conspicuously absent from the tender award and negotiations process were the Ministry of Finance responsible for all fiscal matters of the Government, the Ministry of Transportation, Works and Infrastructure,  Gambia Tourism Board and the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority.  It is evident that government's preferred process lacked transparency and was deliberately exclusionary.

The Head of Operations of Meeting Point, The Gambia, a subsidiary of Germany's FTI one of the world's largest tour operators regrets to confirm that there was no consultations and as far as he can ascertain no one from the industry was involved in the process of assessing the new tax.  According to Meeting Point, "not even Gambia Tourism Board and the Gambia Hotel Association were consulted prior to publishing this [meaning the tax] and as far as I am informed, are adamantly opposed to this border tax."

The subsidiary of FTI believes that the border tax will probably discourage many from travelling to The Gambia for the following reasons: (i) the demand for air travel is price sensitive (ii) for many tourists, especially from new markets, Gambia is often not the first choice and when the price is high, prospective visitors will choose another destination  and (iii) the very existence of what is labeled as a "security tax" gives the feeling of insecurity i.e. the feeling that The Gambia is an insecure place; its a bad PR job.

FTI finds the introduction of such a huge tax increase in the middle of the season is something unheard of in any of the markets they operate in. Although FTI has not altered its plans for the Gambia, the same cannot be said of some of its partners where the Gambia is a new product.  In such markets, they are seriously considering withdrawing because the manner in which the tax was being introduced suggests that the Gambian market is unpredictable and cost planning difficult.

Imposing such a tax will  affects FTI's plan to promote summer tourism because, unlike winter months, there are many destinations Europeans can select from at that time of the year. 

The mere fact that government is thinking of implementing a security tax "may deter foreign investments because it shows how unpredictable the government can be and gives the impression they focus on short-term potential gain instead of long-term sustainable growth for the benefit of the Gambian economy and its people," the Head of Operations opined.


Re-publication - Airport/border security tax contract signed with SECURIPORT

This post (first published Nov. 12th) was the second in a series of four previously published blogposts on the $40 airport security surcharge on arriving and departing passengers at the Banjul International Airport that the government is poised on putting into effect on the 1st October, 2019.  

The decision by the Barrow administration to impose a $20 airport/border security tax on passengers going through Banjul International Airport has attracted immediate negative response from IATA and the tourist operators.

The fact that negotiations have already been concluded and a contract signed with SECURIPORT, a Washington-based security firm has further complicated matters and has posed a real threat to the country's tourist industry.

The contract between Government and SECURIPORT was signed on 21st September, 2018 with the Minister of Interior, Mr. Ibrahim Mballow,  Director General of Immigration, Mr. Buba A. Sagnia and Cabinet Secretary - Office of The President, Mr. Ebrima Ceesay, all three signing on behalf of the Government of The Gambia and General Manager, Securiport Gambia, Mr. Luc Keppens, as the sole signatory for SECURIPORT.

The contract is for a period of 5 years, according to sources. The profit sharing formula or any financial aspect of the contract, for now, remains unknown.

Under Addendum IV, the contract is for the provision of Civil Aviation and Immigration Security services and E-Visa Management System services for the Government of The Republic of The Gambia under the Build-Maintain-Transfer modality.

 In view of the threats posed by international terrorist groups in the sub region and in order to identify other dangerous individuals such as drug traffickers and other criminals that would use the Banjul International Airport, the government decided to upgrade its system for the screening of arriving and departing passengers to ensure the safety of the air transportation industry.

To pay for the cost of the system upgrade, "government has decided to request the airlines to charge a fee to the direct beneficiaries of the system which are all the air passengers arriving and departing the national territory through the international airports." 

The border control fee will be $20 for each arriving and each departing passenger which shall be collected directly by all the airlines operating in The Gambia.  The Addendum made reference to ICAO's Doc 9082 which provides the framework within which charges and taxation to aid in the decision making process for government and airlines to arrive at mutually acceptable conclusions based on the four principles of non-discrimination, transparency, cost relatedness and consultation with users.

Effective 15th January, 2019, the scheme is expected to be operational with "airlines being 100% responsible for fee collection and its payments made monthly to the Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA). A late payment fee of 5% will be levied against airlines that will include the impoundment of aircraft and/or the cancellation of landing rights.

Airline crew and staff, children 0 - 2, passengers whose transit time does not exceed 24 hours and passengers whose flights are diverted to the Banjul International Airport re exempt from paying the border security tax.

As we noted previously, tour operators and IATA are all opposed to the border security tax based on the principles outlined in ICAO's Docs 9082 and 8632 (on taxation) which would require extensive consultations with stakeholders.  The airlines are also demanding the cost bases of the tax, supported by breakdown of costs and revenues as well as traffic forecasts and airport activities, documentation that has been absent up to this point.

This is a developing story....
In subsequent blog post, we will take an in depth look at SECURIPORT, its track record, the manner in which the contract award was handled and why only the Interior Ministry and the Office of The President appears to have been the only one involved in the procurement process, if there was one.  What legal advice was provided, why the Finance Ministry appears to have been left out of the process when the project has huge fiscal implications.  What of the Tourism Ministry?  What about GCAA that runs the airport? Does the threat warrant the huge cost to the economy, to tourism.  This issue is more than a security problem.  



Re-publication: Airport/border security tax will result in D167m decline in GDP and approximately 2,000 job losses, says IATA

This post was the first in a series of four previously published
blog posts on the $40 airport security surcharge on arriving
and departing passenger at the Banjul International airport
that the government is poised on putting into effect on the 1st,
October, 2019. First publication November 12th, 2018
The International Air Transport Association (IATA), the trade association of the world's airlines has issued a stern warning to the Government of The Gambia against its decision to introduce what the Barrow administration labeled as border security tax, if levied as is, will have a devastating impact on tourism and air travel into the country.

It is a $20 tax schedule to take effect on the 15th January, 2019.  Initially, the proposal was for a $40 tax  subsequently halved to its current level which will still going to impact both the economy and tourism negatively, according to industry experts.

Based on industry figures, the introduction of the border security tax will result in 8,500 fewer passengers departing from Banjul International Airport.  The impact will be shared between those travelling within Africa (- 4,200) and those travelling to/from Europe (- 4,000).

The impact to the economy will be equally devastating.  Based on the UN's World Travel Organization (WTO) estimates, 35% of visitors to The Gambia arrive by air and the percentage of those coming from outside West Africa is assumed to be 100%.  The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on the other hand estimates that total travel and tourism account for 20.1% of Gambia's GDP, generating D9.8 billion and supporting 107,500 jobs.

Consequently, a 5% reduction in demand would lead to a reduction of D167 million in GDP and a reduction of 1,835 in the number of jobs supported by aviation.

IATA's warning to the Barrow administration was accompanied with a reminder to its international obligation as member of International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) whose regulatory functions include policies on charges and taxation for decision-making processes, based on these four principles namely: (i) non-discrimination (ii) transparency (iii) cost relatedness and (iv) consultation with users.

As regards to cost relatedness, IATA is yet to be convinced that adequate consultations took place between government and airlines.  They are, therefore requesting that airlines operating in the Gambia be provided with information on the cost bases of the tax, supported with a breakdown of revenues and costs as well as traffic forecasts and airport activities.

In the absence of user consultation and transparent financial information, IATA and its member airlines will not be in a position to evaluate and appreciate the cost relation of the immigration/security services that will be provided and the level and structure of the related user charges.  IATA is thus requesting that a proper consultation mechanism be established so the requested information can be jointly analyzed.

IATA's letter to the Hon. Lamin Jobe, Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure dated 6th November, 2018, is recommending the suspension of the border security tax based on the issues raised therein that includes what is referred to as "a meaningful consultation and proper discussions with the airlines."

As regards the introduction of the new immigration/security measures, performance indicators - such as waiting time in security queues, passenger satisfaction, number of security staff, number of passengers screened per hour etc. - must be put in place to measure the quality of service, productivity and cost effectiveness of the new measures.

Government has yet to respond to the IATA letter and the threats by local tour operators to withdraw from the Gambian market or scale back their operations.  The Government has suddenly find itself in yet another dilemma that threatens the country second biggest foreign exchange earner - tourism.  It appears that the government has committed yet another infraction of standard procurement rules and procedures by entering into a contract with SECURIPORT without inviting proposals from other companies that could provide the same service. *

* The subsequent blog posts we intend to take a closer look at the SECURIPORT contract, the procurement process and related issues.