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.