Disgruntled Staffers Filed Petition Against Gambia’s Food Safety Director General

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Dear Editor M’bai,

You could recall the article sent to you for publication by an insider of the Food Safety and Quality Authority of The Gambia (FSQA) with regards to the corruption and nepotism by DG Zainab Jallow and published on September 21, 2019, with the caption ‘‘Abuse of office’’.

On October 14, 2019, our office received a petition signed by almost all the staff of Food Safety and addressed to the Vice President Dr. Isatou Touray for advice and her reaction since OVP is the line Ministry for FSQA. Director-General Zainab Jallow always travels for no reason, even when some trips are meant for junior staff t, only to collect Per Diem. She travels nothing less than 3 times a month and most times, without clearance from the necessary authorities, sometimes weeks on end without leaving structures in place to cover her absence.

The unlawful arrest of their hardworking colleague Abdul Hakim Jawara On Friday 20th September, who has decided to resign, an issue that could have been resolved internally if the structures in place at FSQA were respected and not handling it as a personal vendetta. Zainab with total disregard to the internal protocol used the Kotou Station police to harass Mr. Jawara, no staff has thus far left Food safety without being harassed or arrested.

Preferential treatment is given to companies based on their closeness to the Director even when their practices are in clear violation of the Food Safety and Quality Act 2011. One clear example is the Best water scandal. The Best Water Factory was closed and then released without laboratory results of samples that were sent to Germany. We believe this was corruption and disrespect to Food Inspectors and the Authority in general.

Recently she also kicked the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control for Africa (PACA) which was housed at the FSQA out of the institution. PACA is introducing control measures to tackle the aflatoxin problem in the Gambia, Zainab does not care about the fact that Aflatoxin is the biggest threat to Gambian agricultural exports and public health.

Her refusal for FSQA to assist the Plant Protection Services of the ministry of agriculture to develop a pest risk assessment, only FSQA has the expertise to do that. Staffs at FSQA were ready to do this important task but they were told not to. This would have enabled Gambian groundnuts and other agricultural produce to have duty-free access to the Chinese market, simply because the DG of FSQA does not want to help Plant Protection Services conduct the assessment needed. Proof of all this can be found by simply asking some of the aforementioned government institutions. Food Safety to collaborate with other government institutions like the Department of Public Health, Plant protection services, Epidemiology and disease control unit, department of livestock, Etc. to make sure the Gambian public is protected. No staff is allowed to work with these abovementioned institutions and there are no collaborating mechanisms in place between the Food Safety and Quality Authority and these institutions which makes our work difficult.

FSQA is run like a family business. The director only appoints her people to key positions so she can do whatever she wants, promotions are based on personal relationships rather than productivity and education. Anyone who objects to the wrongdoings is either sacked or frustrated into resigning. Her family has priority over office property more that FSQA officers, sometimes the food control officers will have to suspend food inspection activities because Zainab’s family will take the cars away even though she has an official car.

From 2014 to date, many staff has either resigned or been fired due to her bad leadership. The FSQA is being managed as a personal enterprise. Internal structures, procedures, and codes of conduct are not respected by the current management. Due to unilateral decisions by the Director-General, five (5) years after its inception, the FSQA is yet to achieve its goals and fulfilled its mandate. Most members of the Board of Directors were handpicked by the DG, hence there is no independence of the board and hence, no checks and balances, which leaves the staff nowhere to raise concerns.

Pa, after going through the petition I can confirm that all the issues raised by the staff are legitimate and DG Zainab Jallow is the worst leader in Gambia’s political history. We are aware of the fact that the DG is threatening her staff to withdraw the petition and apologize to her before it’s too late, citing that the petition has already failed at OP. Madam Zainab is confident that she will go free despite the facts of her wrongdoing because her brother’s wife, Mai Baldeh who is the National Women’s Mobilizer of Barrow Youth Movement (BYM) is pushing for authorities to disregard the petition signed by the staff.

However, if the government downplays this matter, it will result in unrest at FSQA because the staffs are not willing to serve under the current management which will create serious lapses in food control activities in The Gambia.

Attached are the petition letter by the staff and the response from OVP to DG Jallow

By An Insider (OVP)

  • Editors note:  The authors views do not represent the position of the Freedom Newspaper.  Thanks for your attention.
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