“Social Security is the financial heart beat; it is the hear beat of the Gambia because Social Security fingers are into every pie of the Gambian economy. If we stop that office working for two days; in monetary wise we are losing between one and two million dalasis a day; not to talk about the pensioners that want to go on treatment; not to talk about the claims that are lying for pensioners to go on Hajj; the claims that are lying for pensioners to put their roofs in order before the rains come; nobody can quantify the damage it would do to the Gambia and the Gambian economy,” said Momodou Camara, the staff representative at the Social Security, Housing and Finance Corporation.
Mr. Camara was speaking in an interview with the Freedom Newspaper. This followed, a sit down strike organized by the SSHFC staffers. The SSHFC staffers have been on strike since on Thursday. Over two hundred staffers of the parastatal are taking part in the strike action. The SSHFC workers have called for the firing of their boss Muhammed Manjang. Manjang has been accused of abuse of office, corruption and nepotism. He has vehemently denied the charges.
“The strike action is all about a petition that the staff of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation wrote to the Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service office of the president, due to the fact that over one-year Social Security’s management didn’t have a Board of Directors. So, we wrote a petition 21-page petition and in this petition embedded allegations of corruption; allegations of nepotism; allegations of abuse of office done by the reining Managing Director currently Mr. Manjang,” Camara remarked.
A new Board Chairman has been appointed by the president this past week to help resolve the mounting dispute between the Social Security workers and their Managing Director. A Board meeting was convened, which Camara attended.
Camara told Freedom Newspaper that he was ejected the from Board Meeting. He later briefed his colleagues upon his unceremonious ejection from the meeting. Staffers of the SSHFC convened a meeting and resolved that a sit-down strike was the most appropriate cause of action to satisfy their grievances.
“The staff in unison, in a general meeting organized by the staff on Thursday agreed that with immediate effect we are going on a sit-down strike for the government to act because in that government if the Managing Director told you that he is not an employee of the staff but by the president. So, it is only the president who can sack him. So, at the moment, we did not work on Thursday; We did not work today; and then the impasse persists,” Camara said.
“The demands are very simple. Manjang must go! The Managing Director must go because he has stolen money; per diem money, and the proofs are there. And in our service rules, if steal a dime; if you steal one butut; you should be summarily be dismissed. So, these guys were taking seven days per diem money, and wasted air tickets money and in that process employed a girl, and within six months confirmed the girl; promoted her; transferred her and paid three years for her to pursue an ACCA professional course in Ghana, when there are people who have served twenty years and they are on the que,” he added.
The main man at the center of the SSHFC staff dispute is Muhammed Manjang. Mr. Manjang is a former banker. He onetime headed the Standard Chartered Bank Kenya branch. He has denied the staffers allegations of financial impropriety.
“As to being selfish and greedy, I don’t know what they mean; if I was greedy, I would since the beginning of this year, for example, I have never travelled not because there wasn’t travel opportunities, but I felt every single opportunity did not add any value to the Social Security; I turn them down; Now if I was greedy, probably would have traveled and put the per diems in my pockets, but I didn’t because they were no value to me,” Manjang told the Fatu Network—an internet Gambian online station.
Manjang urged staffers to be ready to adopt to change. He noted that the old ways of running the institution are now a thing of the past.
“We here have staff loans of about hundred and thirty million dalasis; that is about four million dollars, and I can tell you, and you investigate yourself; if you look at what the private sector; banks for example, and you look at the other prastatals, I would not be surprised if our portfolio is more than the combined total of all those institutions. This is not our money because we see money in; these are contributions; these are people depositing their monies with us; it doesn’t mean we are generating profits,” Manjang remarked.
He added that the parastatal is spending huge amount of money on staffers –including loans made to them which have not been repaid. He said because of such financial indiscipline, there was not enough money to give pensioners a salary increase. Manjang says this is at the root of staff dissatisfaction with him and his policies.
Meanwhile, the striking SSHFC staffers said the strike action will continue unless their demands are met by the government.