FOOD SAFETY AND QUALITY AUTHORITY OF THE GAMBIA (FSQA) FINAL INVESTIGATION REPORT DECEMBER 2019-Leaked

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Table of Content
1. Background …………………………………………………………. 1-7
3. Methodology………………………………………………………… 8-9
4. Scope of the Investigation ………………………………………… 9
5. Limitations…………………………………………………………… 10
6. Findings ………………………………………………………….. 11-23
7. Recommendations………………………………………………24-28

FOOD SAFETY AND QUALITY AUTHORITY OF THE GAMBIA (FSQA) FINAL INVESTIGATION REPORT DECEMBER 2019
1. BACKGROUND
The Board of Directors of the Food safety and Quality Authority by virtue of Clause 718 of the FSQA’s Service Rule is mandated to set up a Committee to investigate into any matter that is serious in nature. In view of the foregoing, the Board of Directors of FSQA commissioned a Committee of Inquiry to investigate complaints and concerns regarding a petition filed by 32 staff of the FSQA. The Committee of Inquiry includes the Commissioner of Labour, Mr Nyallow Barrow, the Director of Human Rights, Office of the Ombudsman, Mr Landing Bondi, the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Office of the Vice President Ms Ramatoulie Sarr and the Deputy Permanent Secretary, Personnel Management Office, Mr Musa Camara.
The terms of reference of the Committee of Inquiry is to investigate complaints raised by the petitioners on the signed petition dated 7th October 2019.
The Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA) was established by an Act of Parliament in 2011 and operates as an Agency under the Office of the Vice President. The Board of Directors of FSQA are mandated to oversee the overall direction of the Authority and delegates its day to day management to the Director General (DG) and the management. FSQA has the mandate and the monopoly to provide structures and control mechanisms to ensure the safety and quality of food and feed countrywide and for connected matters.
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1.1 Functions of the Food Safety and Quality Authority includes:
a.
b. Ensuring that food and feed comply with legal requirements, or where
The overall official control of food safety and quality; appropriate with approved codes of good practice;
c. Carrying out inspection, sampling and certification of food and feed for import and export when so required;
d. Inspecting establishments, processes and products throughout the production and distribution chain;
e. Assessing laboratory services in terms of technical capacity to carry out food and feed analysis for official control;
f. Delegating food and feed safety and quality responsibilities to Competent Bodies and Persons where appropriate;
g. Participating in activities relating to standards and technical regulations for food and feed at the National, Regional and International levels;
h. Promoting the development of frameworks of mutual recognition with foreign food safety authorities;
i. Ensuring that the adopted inspection procedures are based on risk assessment;
j. Developing and enforcing a code of conduct for competent Bodies and Persons; and
k. Maintaining well trained and competent staff within the Authority.
1.2 Duties of the Board of Directors:
a. Determine the overall policy and strategy of the Authority with particular regard to the financial, operational, organizational and administrative programmes and to ensure the implementation of the policy;
b. Control the management, property, business, funds and other matters relating to the Authority;
c. Make decisions by a majority of its members with the Chairman having the casting vote;
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d. Approve and adopt the procedural internal rules of the Authority and its component parts including its own rules of procedure;
e. Adopt the authority’s financial regulation which specifies the procedure for drawing up and implementing the Authority’s budget for financing from the State Budget;
f. Meet at the invitation of the Chairperson or the Director General or at the request of at least a third of its members;
g. Ensure that the authority carries out its functions and performs the tasks assigned to it under the FSQA Act 2011;
h. Adopt before 31st December each year authority’s programme of work for the coming year. It shall also adopt a revisable multi-annual programme;
i. Ensure that work programmes of the Authority are consistent with the Government’s legislative and policy programs in the area of food safety;
j. Adopt before 30th March each year, the general report on the Authority’s activities for the previous year;
k. Ensure that the reports and publications of the Authority are published; and
l. Define a code of ethics for Competent Persons which inter alia defines conflicts of personal and professional interests.
1.3 Duties of the Director General:
a. Responsible for the day-to-day administration of the Authority;
b. Drawing up a proposal for the authority’s work programmes;
c. Implementing the work programmes and the decisions adopted by the Board of Directors;
d. Ensuring the provision of appropriate scientific, technical and administrative support for the Scientific Committee and the Scientific Working Group;
e. Ensuring that the Authority carries out its tasks in accordance with the requirements of the FSQA Act;
f. The preparation of the statement of revenue and expenditure and the
execution of the budget of the Authority;
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g. Ensuring that the Authority is adequately staffed for the performance of its functions; and
h. Developing and maintaining contact with all relevant stakeholders in the areas of food safety and quality.
1.4 Complaints raised by the petitioners:
➢ Only one MoU has been signed with the Ministry of Health which is not
effectively implemented due to poor collaboration;
➢ Bad leadership and management of the Director General;
➢ Staff meeting held in July 2019 where no staff was allowed to talk;
➢ Despite being hard working and dedicated to duty, the FSQA staff
continues to work in pain and suffering;
➢ Internal structures, procedures and codes of conduct are not respected by
the current management;
➢ Director General’s frequent travels even when some trips are meant for
junior staff only to collect per diem, travels nothing less than twice a month and most times without a clearance from the relevant authorities, sometimes weeks without leaving structures to cover her absence;
➢ FSQA is run like a family business. The DG only appoints her own people to key positions so she can manipulate them, promotions are based on personal relationships rather than productivity and education;
➢ The Post of legal, compliance and human resources is held by one person;
➢ Mr Edrissa Baldeh was denied study leave;
➢The DG’s family has priority over Office property than FSQA
Officers/activities…sometimes the food control officers would have to suspend food inspection activities because the DG’s family would take FSQA vehicles away even though she has an official car;
➢ Preferential treatment is given to companies based on their closeness to the DG even when their practices are in clear violation of the Food Safety and Quality Authority Act 2011. One example is the ‘Best Water scandal’. The Best Water Factory was closed and later allowed to operate without laboratory results of samples that were sent to Germany. We believe this
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was corruption and disrespect to Food Inspectors and the authority in
general;
➢ DG refused to assist the Plant Protection services of the Ministry of
Agriculture to develop a pest risk assessment;
➢ Ndey Naffie Ceesay, the focal person for Partnership for Aflatoxin Control
for Africa (PACA) was kicked out of the FSQA which was meant to house
PACA;
➢ Most of the Board members were handpicked by the DG;
➢ The arrest of our colleague Abdul Hakim Jawara on Friday 20th September
2019. He was forced to resign after being frustrated and sidelined by the
management;
➢ Resignations and other unlawful terminations:
I. Musa Touray, Legal Officer was fired by DG after the end of his probation period stating that he was incompetent;
II. Ebrima Jallow, a master’s degree holder in Food Science and Director of Food Control fired after the end of his probation period with the same excuse;
III. Musa Jallow, was employed whilst still doing a master’s degree in public health at the UTG. He was told there was no problem with that he continues his studies. After accepting the offer, he was fired;
IV. Haddijatou Kodou Touray, Principal Scientific Officer was arrested and kept in Police custody for days whilst she was acting under the orders of the DG. She was forced to resign due to toxic work environment;
V. Abbisatou Manneh, former Human Resource Manager, resigned due to terrible working conditions and because she was also asked to do unethical things by the Director general;
VI. Baba Y Darboe, former Procurement Officer, resigned due to terrible leadership engulfing the FSQA;
VII. Mr Bai Cham, Former Finance Director, resigned due to difficulties working with DG;
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VIII. Mrs Fatima Cole-Jah, former Food Inspector resigned due to the toxic environment;
IX. Ms Mbayang Dibba, former Food Inspector resigned as a result of DG’s management style as she was demotivated;
X. DG influences the dissolving of the first-ever board of the FSQA. Some people in that board played a huge role in the enactment of the FSQA Act 2011;
XI. The former board Chairman, Dr Bully Sanyang refused to renew his second term due to the terrible behavior and unbearable working of DG.
Consequent
with the Board of FSQA held at the conference room of FSQA on 7th November 2019 to discuss the modalities of the Investigation. Subsequently, the Committee was tasked to conduct the investigation on the aforementioned terms of reference. This is in consonance with concerns of the Office of the Vice President and the desire to ensure FSQA is conducive and convenient for all staff.
The investigation focused on a thorough review of the complaints raised by the petitioners and examined the HR systems and structures, management and leadership style, other available procedures and policy tools of FSQA in order to make recommendations for appropriate policy frameworks and operational measures for improved productivity, service delivery, cordiality and a conducive environment for all.
to the above, the Committee of Inquiry had an inception meeting
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2. METHODOLOGY
The proposed mandate and TOR of the investigation has been further reviewed with the Board in a bid to clear out any ambiguities and establish a common denominator for the investigation. In order to embark on the exercise, the Committee of Inquiry requested and obtained from FSQA the following information:
❖ The authorized manpower complement;
❖ The number of staff in post by name, designation, grade and location; ❖ The Organizational chart of FSQA;
❖ Staff service rules;
❖ The FSQA Act;
❖ Policies and Procedures manual;
❖ File for minutes of the Board meetings;
❖ Personal files of identified staff;
❖ Code of conduct of FSQA;
❖ Hard copies of emails provided by DG; and
❖ Copies of payment vouchers and fuel vouchers.
This was followed by an interview of randomly selected staff. Basically, 10 staff from the petitioners, all the Directors, the Director General, 2 former Board members, Director of Public Health, Director General of Department of Livestock, Director of Plant Protection, Department of Fisheries, Department of Water Resources, 8 Drivers including the Chief Driver, a Cleaner, 6 staff who did not sign the petition across all the Directorates and 5 staff amongst those who resigned or were claimed to have been unlawfully terminated. Thus, each of the aforementioned officers were required to appear with relevant documents that justified or substantiated their narrations. This was intended to serve as a control, and an effort to match the petition comments to facts.
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Furthermore, the files of the remaining staff that resigned or were claimed to have been terminated unlawfully were reviewed in addition to other files that were relevant to the investigation.
Issues surrounding the FSQA Act, Staff Service Rules, nominal roll, details of establishment, code of conduct, and other government legal frameworks were scrutinised. The information collected were analysed taking into consideration relevant policy and legal instruments to inform the basis for the findings of the investigation.
Also of significance is the scoping assessment undertaken to check the level of compliance and conformity of the existing administrative practices and procedures against the service rules, laws of the Gambia and other fundamental legal and administrative frameworks of government.
3. SCOPE OF INVESTIGATION
The scope of the investigation is only limited to the requirements of the agreed terms of reference. Thus, the investigation examined the signed petition, FSQA Act 2011, the organizational structure, Minutes of Board meetings, payment vouchers, memo file, relevant personal files, approved clearance and relevant Institutions and Persons considered as stakeholders and only discusses the petition against actual findings but does not serve as a financial audit of the institution. The investigation also focused on a thorough assessment of the current HR systems & structures and other available procedures and policy tools of FSQA.
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4. LIMITATIONS
Despite careful preparations and cooperation from the management and staff, the Committee encountered a number of constraints:
o Time was a major challenge. The 2 weeks allocated was not sufficient to interview all the relevant staff of FSQA, meet other former Board members, relevant institutions that are stakeholders and further look into the personal file of staff was not achievable. This caused the team to work for 3 weeks including weekends;
o Some of the information requested could not be granted;
o As Senior Officers, members of the Committee of Inquiry had to work
under serious pressure considering our work schedules;
o Most personal files do not have all the requisite information required.
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5. INVESTIGATION/FINDINGS
5.1 Lack of collaboration with relevant stakeholders on food safety matters such as Ministry of Health, Department of Fisheries and Plant Protection Services
The Committee’s investigation revealed that two MOUs were signed. One was between Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA) and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW) while the second one was between FSQA and the Department of Fisheries. The MoU between FSQA and MOHSW lasted for a period of one year from 2015 to 2016. There was no evidence of implementation of the MOU between FSQA and Department of Fisheries. Furthermore, there was no evidence of any MOU signed between FSQA and the other relevant stakeholders such as Plant Protection Services (PPS) and Department of Livestock.
The Director of Public Health stated that at the expiry of the signed MoU, the MOHSW reviewed the MOU and sent it to FSQA for their review and acceptance. However, he informed the Committee that FSQA responded but did not agree to the proposal or amendments. He further stated that MOHSW wrote again to FSQA but did not get any response since then. On the other hand, the Director General (DG) of FSQA told the Committee that MOHSW was not submitting quarterly reports as agreed in the MOU and the Ministry also wanted more authority (by covering all the regions in the country instead of only four regions as stated in the MOU). The DG added that FSQA wrote to MOHSW through email for a new MOU to be signed but did not receive any response. In an email dated 22 June 2018 which was sent to Buba Manjang of MOHSW, the DG FSQA stated many things, such as requesting that the Permanent Secretary of MOHSW to sign the new MOU. The Committee was also provided with a draft MOU which was said to have been attached to the email sent to the MOHSW.
Thus, the investigation revealed that after the expiry of the signed MoU, there was correspondence between FSQA and MoHSW but they could not agree to the content of the revised MOU and so it could not be signed. For the Department of Fisheries, there was change in management at the expiry of the signed MoU and the new Permanent Secretary (Dr Banja) wanted to acquaint himself with the MoU before any further engagement. As such, no progress was later made.
Therefore, during the investigation, there is no MoU signed between FSQA and any relevant stakeholder.
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5.2 Director General’s frequent travels even when some trips are meant for junior staff only to collect per diem, travels nothing less than twice a month and most times without a clearance from the relevant authorities, sometimes weeks without leaving structures to cover her absence
There is no evidence that the DG travels at least twice a month, as alleged by the petitioners. Many people were interviewed including some of the petitioners and they told the Committee that she travels frequently but they could not provide any evidence that she travels not less than two times a month. The DG told the Committee that she travelled only five times in 2019. The DG was given clearance for her travels, contrary to the allegation made by the petitioners. There is no evidence that some of the DG’s travels were meant for the junior staff, as alleged by the petitioners.
However, the Committee found that the DG was granted clearance to be paid 10 days per diem to attend the WTO-SPS meeting scheduled for the 12th to 14th July 2017 and the Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting scheduled for 17th to 22nd July 2017. However, DG was paid 15 days per diem instead. This implies that DG was paid an extra 5 days without authorization. For this same trip, DG claimed to have bought an air ticket for herself and then requested to be refunded by FSQA an amount of D168, 800.00. However, there is no evidence that DG bought the ticket. The Committee also requested the invitation for the aforementioned meetings to confirm if the trip was actually at cost to Government or not but this could not be provided by the DG.
The DG’s personal assistant informed the Committee that the DG sent her to request for an air ticket from Satguru, however, she was told an air ticket could be granted provided they will be take 40 percent of the cost of ticket as their share. This implies DG was making arrangements to justify she actually bought an air ticket.
5.3 Resignations and Unlawful Terminations
❖ It was stated in the petition that Musa Touray, a legal officer at FSQA, was fired by DG after the end of his probation for being incompetent.
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Musa Touray was appointed by the FSQA Board of Directors on 4th June 2014 and was required to serve a probationary period of three months, as per the missive Ref: FSQA/Appointment/LO/001 dated 4 June 2014. His service was terminated on 22 September 2014 for being incapable of taking directives, contravening the direct orders of the DG and missing work or lateness without calling in. This was stated in the missive Ref: FSQA/Appointment/LO/001 dated 22 September 2014, which was signed by the DG Zainab Jallow.
Although it was stated in the letter that the termination of Musa Touray’s service was decided by the Board, there is no evidence to support this. The Committee did not find minutes of the Board meeting on this in the file containing minutes of the Board meetings.
There are also no warning letters in Musa Touray’s personal file concerning the issues leading to the termination of his service except one memo in which he was asked to explain why disciplinary action would not be taken against him for being absent from work on 30th July 2014.
❖ It was also stated in the petition that Ebrima Jallow, a master’s degree holder in food science and Director of Food Control was fired at the end of his probation for the same reason as Musa Touray. The petitioners added that he was an exceptional leader and all the staff that worked under him loved him.
The investigation revealed that Ebrima Jallow was appointed on 9th September 2016 as Principal Food Inspector and to serve probation of one year. His service was terminated on 11th May 2017 as stated in the missive Ref: FSQA/BOD/VOL 1 (1/2017) dated 11th May 2017. It was stated in the letter signed by the DG that there was a unanimous decision by the Board to terminate his service. The factors taken into account included performance review appraisal, team player attitude, observations made by immediate supervisor and leadership and interpersonal skills in managing professional and support staff.
A performance review/appraisal form dated 15th September 2016 was found in Ebrima Jallow’s personal file, where the HR Manager stated that his performance was low as he lacked supervisory skills and did not pay heed to advice even though he had been cautioned on several occasions as indicated in his file. The DG also stated in the appraisal form that Ebrima Jallow had no management and leadership skills and seemed to be lacking an understanding of his job.
However, in the minutes of the Board meeting dated 28th April 2017, it was indicated that the Board directed that a letter be written to him explaining the outcome of his appraisal and other findings of his performance that were found to be unsatisfactory, which as a result warrants the Authority to offer him a
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lesser position within the Food Control Directorate. This could be seen on page 4 of the minutes of the meeting. The resolution part of the minutes of the meeting did not indicate the Board’s decision to terminate Ebrima Jallow’s service. Two weeks after this particular Board meeting, Ebrima Jallow’s service was terminated. Although it cannot be established that the Board did not decide the termination of his service, however there is no minutes of any Board meeting in the file for Board meetings indicating any Board resolution to terminate Ebrima Jallow’s service.
❖ It was also stated in the petition that Musa Jallow was employed whilst pursuing a master’s degree in public health at the UTG. It was added that he was granted permission to proceed but after accepting the offer he was fired.
Musa Jallow was appointed on 27th January 2014 as Senior Food Inspector. His service was terminated on 10th March 2014 as stated in the missive FSQA/BOD/VOl 1 (07) dated 10th March 2014 signed by the Chairperson of the Board Muhammed Sillah. It was stated in the missive that his service was no longer needed as he did not meet the requirements and conditions for full-time employment due to his enrolment at the University and schedule of classes.
There is no evidence that Musa Jallow was told that he could continue with his studies and at the same time do his job at FSQA. As mentioned earlier, it was the Board’s decision to terminate the service of Musa Jallow.
❖ It was mentioned in the petition that Haddijatou Kodou Touray, Principal Scientific Officer, was arrested and kept in police custody for days whilst she was acting under the orders of Zainab. It was further stated that she was fired and taken to court but later acquitted and reinstated. It was added that she was forced to resign due to the toxic work environment and that she had since left the country for the USA.
In her response the DG informed the Committee that Ms Hadijatou Touray was fired by the Executive following the discovery that she had been illegally issuing certificates to non-inspected smoked fish. She further stated that an Executive order was issued for her arrest and prosecution together with Mrs Sainabou Ngum, one of the beneficiaries of her illegal actions. She added that her recommendation to remove Ms Touray as a signatory and issue her a warning letter and leniency was rejected by the Executive.
The statements of both the DG and the petitioners indicated that Hadijatou Kodou Touray was arrested and later fired. The Committee did not find any evidence that she was arrested and detained by the police while under the orders
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of the DG. Her personal file contains a letter from Personnel Management Office (PMO) dated 9th February 2016 informing her of her reinstatement to her former position as Principal Scientific Officer.
The Committee of Inquiry was informed that Hadijatou Kodou Touray is in the USA. She could not be contacted for an interview.
❖ It is stated in the petition that Abbisatou Manneh, former HR Manager resigned due to terrible working conditions and that she was also asked to do unethical things by the DG.
The DG in her response said Ms Manneh resigned for reasons best known to her. She added that Ms Manneh had failed her probationary period and it was intended to extend her probation.
However, when interviewed, Abbisatou Manneh said she had never been told that she had failed her probation. She added that she had never been appraised.
There is nothing in Abbisatou Manneh’s file indicating that she had been appraised as done for many other staff of FSQA. No evidence has also been found indicating that she had failed her probation.
Abbisatou said the DG once asked her to write a memo (warning letter) to Abdul Hakim Jawara, one of the officers at FSQA, but she told her there was no need for a warning letter and DG replied to her that may be FSQA is not the right place for her. This incident happened in July 2019 and she tendered her resignation the following month on 9th August 2019 informing FSQA that she would leave the institution on 6th September 2019.
❖ ABDUL HAKIM JAWARA’S FORCEFUL RESIGNATION
The committee investigated the resignation of Abdul Hakim Jawara. In its findings, the Committee interviewed Mr. Jawara, the petitioners and non- petitioners concerning Abdul Hakim’s forceful resignation.
Mr. Jawara said he was appointed at FSQA on the 16th September 2016 as a Scientific Officer for risk assessment and confirmed on the 16th September 2017. He explained that when he first came to FSQA with Abdoulie Jallow, there was no work plan for the Scientific Directorate, no policy direction and no terms of reference. He claimed that they took the initiative to develop a guideline and a work plan for the Scientific Department and started activities done.
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Mr Jawara highlighted that he was later selected by FSQA to serve as the Focal Person for FAO. However, he said his problem first started with DG when FAO invited the best food safety expert in Africa to come to the Gambia but the DG never wanted to meet him. He further stated that the relationship between him and DG was worst when FAO wanted to appoint him as a Consultant and that DG never supported that idea. He said a month after Ramadan the DG texted him not to enter her office anymore and that anything he proposed from that time was rejected by DG. He stated that he worked for two months without being given any task, so he decided to tender his resignation giving two months’ notice so that he could train someone before leaving. However, he said DG could not agree to this and the police were called to arrest him.
The DG was interviewed in connection to this issue. She indicated that the issue of FAO triggered Abdul Hakim’s behaviour towards her and his subsequent resignation. She could not allow him to take up a consultancy when he was still a member staff of FSQA. She said Mr. Jawara resigned and gave two months’ notice instead of one month as required by the Service Rules. She said that the matter was put to the Board Chair who concurred with the decision to accept only one month notice from him. She said Mr Jawara refused to leave after one month and the police were called to escort him out.
The findings of the Committee revealed that a provision is made in the Service Rules for an officer intending to resign to give one month notice or pay a month’s salary in lieu of the notice. However, from a HR perspective and from a legal opinion/interpretation sought by the Committee, this provision of the service rule doesn’t mean an officer cannot give more than a month’s notice. In fact, the required notification is meant to help the employer. Thus, it was in order for Abdul Hakim to give two months’ notice if that was what he needed. He could not however, give training as a reason for the two months’ notice. That should be decided by the employer. Notwithstanding, DG could have referred the matter to the Board to engage Abdul Hakim such that he knows the office cannot grant him two months’ notice in which case, he will either give only a month’s notice
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or he be dismissed. The Committee thought it was a poor judgment on the side of the DG to take such step to call the police to forcefully move Mr. Jawara out without the directive of the Board as the appointing authority in this case.
❖ The files of Mbayang Dibba, former Food Inspector; Fatima Cole Jah, former Food Inspector; Baba Y Darboe, former Procurement officer and Bai Cham, former Director of Finance were perused to confirm the petitioners’ claim that these officers have resigned due to the toxic environment and bad leadership of the DG.
However, there was no evidence in their files to support these claims. What the Committee saw in their files were thanks giving and appreciation of the efforts of DG in their professional at FSQA.
❖ Dr Bully Sanyang was interviewed whether he refused to renew his second
term due to the terrible behavior and unbearable working of DG. He responded that he resigned because he got another job which was time demanding and thought he could not continue as a Board Chair with the new responsibility. Furthermore, he said another reason that influenced his decision to resign was that the Board minutes were never brought for signature which he complained on many occasions. He also stated that he had always wanted the Board to interact with the staff once in a while in order to know their concerns. However, the other members who served long before him were always reluctant for that saying they have never been doing that and that it was the responsibility of the management to do that. Thus, he was not confortable working that way.
❖ Both Ndey Naffie Ceesay and the DG were interviewed regarding Ndey Naffie’s eviction from the FSQA complex which was meant to house her. The committee’s findings revealed that the MoU signed between the African Union Commission and FSQA for the hosting of PACA Country Officer (Ndey Naffie) has lapsed since February 2018. As such, a decision from the Office of the Vice President suspended the signing of the PACA Country Officer until further notice.
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5.4 Appointments and promotions biased toward family members and close associates of DG, handpicking of some Board Members, the post of the Legal, Compliance and HR is handled by one person
A number of petitioners, none petitioners and two of the former Board members were interviewed on this claim. However, the Committee could not find any evidence of family members or close associates being appointed by the DG. There was also no evidence that any Board member was handpicked by the DG.
Regarding appointments and promotions, our investigation revealed only one minute in the minute file of the Board since 2016 showing only four staff being promoted by the Board. However, there is evidence in the personal files of some senior officers whose promotions should have emanated from the Board but no Board minute showed that evidence.
The investigation also discovered that the Legal, Compliance and HR matters are handled by one person, who is the Director of Regulatory Affairs. This was confirmed by the DG and Director of Regulatory Affairs that she was assigned to oversee HR when the HR Manager resigned in September 2019.
Nonetheless, the committee observed that considering the nature and sensitivity of the position of HR Manager, there is urgent need to appoint a trained person to handle this position. This is urgent and the Board is advised to take urgent necessary action and ensure it is filled.
The investigation also revealed that there is no scheme of service to guide recruitment, training and promotion. A Scheme of Service is important as it enhances objectivity and decreases discretionary tendencies in the application of these key HR functions.
5.5 The DG’s family has priority over Office vehicles at the expense of the Office staff and Office activities
The committee investigated this matter and during the exercise many of the interviewees attested to the committee that the Chief Driver on behalf of DG’s family members on many occasions requested for a vehicle during food inspections. In some instances when the food inspectors were about to go for inspection, they were told that the vehicle was requested to run the errands of the DG’s family member. Two of the inspectors further informed the Committee that on two occasions they suspended their inspections when the driver was
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called by the chief driver that the vehicle was needed by the DG’s family. Most of the requests by the family members normally come through the Chief driver. However, some of the interviewees opined that the instruction comes from DG.
One of the senior officers informed the committee that when the issue came to the attention of DG she lamented that she was not aware and cautioned the Chief Driver for doing such an act. However DG said she will not do such a thing.
5.6 Preferential treatment accorded to some Companies as a result of corruption, eg ’Best Water Factory’
Several inspectors, petitioners, non-petitioners and directors were interviewed on this claim. The findings of the committee revealed that when the inspectors found out that the water of Best Water Company was not fit for drinking, it was given a notice to close operations. The FSQA submitted improvement notice to Best Water and also took samples of the water which were to sent Abuko Water Laboratory and another sample sent to Germany. The report from Abuko indicated that the water was fit for consumption. Furthermore, the Company was confirmed to have complied with the improvement notice issued by FSQA. Consequently, the factory was allowed start operation before the report from Germany was received.
However, the inspectors complained that management took action and gave a press release that Best Water was fit for drinking without their notice, causing embracement to them as some of them were in the field confiscating best water. They claimed to have known only when shopkeepers called their attention to the press release.
During the interview, the DG said the inspectors must have been aware of the opening of Best Water because they were the Officers who went to check whether the company complied with the improvement notice. When she was told that it was different inspectors, she said that she did not know that was the case. The committee observed that there was poor communication between the staff and the management.
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5.7 DG’s refusal for plant protection services to develop a pest risk assessment resulting in Gambian groundnuts and other agricultural produce losing duty free access to the Chinese market
The committee interviewed several people including the Director of Plant Protection Services and the DG. The findings of the committee revealed that, the FSQA asked Plant Protection Services to develop a pest risk assessment as requested by the Chinese authorities. However, according to the Director of Plant Protection Services, they requested the FSQA to submit risk profile of the commodities concerned but did not get any response from FSQA until during a particular training when they were informed that NARI was assigned and had done the assessment and submitted the report to the Chinese authorities.
The DG confirmed that FSQA asked Plant Protection Services to develop a pest risk assessment, which was requested by the Chinese authorities. She stated that several Gambians contacted her saying that they wanted to export groundnuts to China but could not due to lack of pest assessment. She added that she then told the Chinese authorities in the Gambia to contact Ministry of Agriculture. She further stated that it was the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture who assigned NARI to develop a pest risk assessment.
5.8 Bad leadership and mismanagement style of the DG
Finally, most of the petitioners and non-petitioners interviewed have lamented before the Committee of Inquiry about the gross misconduct and bad management of the DG. These claims have been emphasized by most of the staff during the interview. Below are some of the claims and what the Committee found.
• That DG unreasonably exhausts the D25, 000.00 fuel supply given to her every 5 weeks. As such, she demands more fuel any time she wishes. The Committee found that D20,000 fuel was given to DG on 23rd September 2019 and within three weeks she requested for D20,000 (14th October
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2019). Find attached copies of the fuel vouchers for your perusal on
appendix A and B;
• That DG’s brother (Pa Musa) called the Office on 27th July 2018 requesting
for fuel to be issued to him, when his request was refused, he threatened to tell the DG that her staff lacks training. During the interview, the DG acknowledged responding to a text message sent to her by her personal assistant concerning Pa Musa’s request for fuel. Find attached copies of the text message on appendix C and conveyance of the fuel in appendix D;
• That DG’s brother has been seen driving her car on many occasions very late at night. During the interview, the DG acknowledged that her brother Pa Musa used to drive her official car at night. She questioned if there was anything wrong with that;
• That the Chief Driver (Abou Njie) has been using the Office car to take DG’s sister in-law’s children from home to school and from school to home for more than 6 months. The DG said she was informed about this by her personal assistant and she tried to ask the chief driver about it but he kept on avoiding her for one month. The DG failed to tell the Committee of Inquiry what action she took against the chief driver when she finally saw him;
• That In July 2019, a general staff meeting was summoned by the HR Manager through a memo highlighting the items to be discussed. However, during the said meeting, the DG said it was meant for briefing and that she was the only person who would talk and no one else. The Committee of Inquiry’s position is that the DG should have allowed the staff to express their views during the meeting, as they were informed through a memo that the agenda of the meeting would cover general staff matters. Find attached the shared memo for your perusal on appendix E;
• That DG has been requesting for money on many occasions (from D40, 000 to D75, 000) for corporate social responsibility, but the staff claimed that the money was not used for this purpose. The DG was asked about this but she replied that she would not respond as this was not raised by
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the petitioners. The position of the Committee of Inquiry is that these claims fall under the issue of bad leadership and mismanagement which was raised by the petitions. This can be found on the first page of the petition. Vouchers marked appendix F will highlight this claim;
• That on 1st February 2019, DG borrowed D40, 000.00 from the Director of Finance and gave him a cheque to refund the money. However, any time the Director of Finance goes to the Bank, the cheque bounces. As such, till today, that money has not been refunded. The DG did not want to comment on this issue. See cheque marked appendix G;
• That the position of Director of Scientific Affairs, Food Inspectorate Directorate and Communication Officer positions were advertised only one day. The DG responded that the advertisement was shared among different papers for different days. The Committee of Inquiry asked for the evidence of advertising this particular recruitment with other papers but the DG could provide any evidence to the Committee. See the voucher for one day payment with the point on appendix H;
• That Etienne Sylva, the Communication Officer was paid salaries for a couple of months before he was issued an appointment letter. The DG stated that Etienne was only appointed on contract. The Committee’s position is that whether an appointment is on permanent basis or contractual, due process should have been followed;
• That DG travels without handing over until she reaches her destination when she will send emails that so and so can be contacted in my absence. She responded that at times she sends an email after travelling informing the staff whom to direct what matter to but sometimes, she hands over a written note to one of the Directors;
• That only one minute of the Board meetings was signed since 2016; and
• That the food inspectors do not have any desktop or labtop to write their
reports.
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6. RECOMMENDATIONS
The analyses of the findings and discoveries have been juxtaposed with the provisions of the FSQA Act 2011, Staff Service Rules of FSQA and other fundamental laws or guidelines of government to arrive at recommendations.
6.1 A Scheme of Service should be developed as soon as possible as its operationalization will guard against patronage in recruitment and promotions;
6.2 DG’s family should refrain from using the Authority’s vehicles forthwith. Even DG’s official car should not be driven by a family member who is not a staff especially late hours at night;
6.3 None of the petitioners should be punished or disadvantaged for signing a petition. They should not be discriminated during postings or promotions. The Board should ensure that there is no retaliation, victimization or punishment against the petitioners for filing the petition against the DG. Everybody has the right to file a petition, as stipulated under section 25 of the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia;
6.4 Considering the conduct of Chief Driver Abou Njie to be gross misconduct, he deserves appropriate disciplinary action of demotion for conniving with DG’s family members by withdrawing Office vehicles from the field while work was going on and using the Office vehicle to transport DG’s brother’s children to and from school for 6 months;
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6.5 For National Interest, the Board should ensure that the expired MoUs for the Ministry of Health and Fisheries are revised and agreed. The Board should further ensure an MoU is signed with any Government Institution considered relevant to Food Safety business. Despite the recent staff deployment, FSQA does not have the requisite staff to cover the entire country appropriately. In view of the above and given the provision in section 45 of the FSQA Act 2011, it is the responsibility of the Board to ensure that this fulfilled;
6.6 DG’s relationship with majority of the staff is considered unpleasant. As such, this will greatly affect productivity. The Board should be proactive and meet the staff periodically and know their concerns to avoid a repetition of petitions without the Board being aware. The staff should be allowed to lodge complaints to the Board through the Chairman when they are not satisfied with the handling of their complaints by their heads of departments and the DG;
6.7 The Board should be strong and take its role as prescribed by the Act so that staff will have trust and confidence in the Board and not think the DG dictates and controls the Board;
6.8 DG should desist from borrowing money from Accounts. Since the DG refused to respond to the Committee of Inquiry’s questions concerning the D40, 000 and other amounts she has been alleged to have requested and received for corporate social responsibility, the Board should ask her to account for the money;
6.9 DG should refrain from taking fuel that is different from her monthly allocation The Board should ask the DG to account for the different amounts given to her in the form of fuel coupons without authorization even though she had already been given her monthly fuel allocation;
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6.10 Both HR Manager and Procurement Officer should be recruited as soon as possible and that all procurement matters including purchase of air tickets be accorded to the Procurement Officer as per the requirements of the GPPA;
6.11 The Act should be revised to accommodate Deputy Director General position;
6.12 All vacancies must be approved by the Board and the vacancy announcement be given enough time for all qualified interested Gambians to be given the opportunity. Furthermore, the advertisement should be done in at least three different papers with the same period of time;
6.13 The Board should ensure Offices and accommodation are provided for staff redeployed outside the main office. The Board is further advised to visit all duty stations where FSQA staff are present and observe their working environment and conditions;
6.14 Staff must be given tools to work with including desktops and laptops as soon as possible in a bid to improve service delivery, efficiency and effectiveness;
6.15 All decisions on appointments, promotions and dismissals of Officers in categories I and II should be indicated in the minutes of Board meetings;
6.16 The Board Chairman should sign all letters of appointment, promotion and dismissal of the staff in grades I and II that the Board is required to appoint, as was done by the first Chairperson of FSQA Mr Muhammed Sillah;
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6.17 The Board should ensure that minutes of Board meetings are produced and provided to the Board members not later than one month after the meeting and all the minutes are signed by all the members present at the meeting. This is to avoid the concern raised by the former Board Chairman Dr. Bully Sanyang;
6.18 The Board should ask the DG to produce the air ticket she claimed to have bought and was refunded the money by the FSQA for one of her travels which cost the FSQA D168,000;
6.19 The Board should also ensure that the D40, 000 the DG borrowed from FSQA is paid and find out from her why she has delayed the payment of the money since February 2019;
6.20 The Board should ensure that the DG pays the extra 5 days per diem she claimed without authorization during one of her trips abroad when she was given only 10 days’ clearance instead of 15 days;
6.21 If all the financial allegations against the DG are found to be true, the DG’s actions will be considered fraudulent and a gross misconduct. The Board should therefore take appropriate disciplinary action against her; and
6.22 There should be easy communication between the staff, the Director General and the Board concerning any matter of the institution. The staff should have access to the DG to voice out their grievances and should take all means to give audience to the staff and shall encourage discussions in order to address the issue. Where the two parties could not settle the matter, it may be forwarded to the Board to address it. In
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receiving the complaint, the Board shall take all necessary action to settle the matter.
Where members of staff infringe any part of the Service Rules, the DG shall take necessary action to address the issue in accordance with the Service Rules. Where the DG fails to settle the matter, he/she shall put the issue before the Board and the Board shall take necessary action to address the issues.
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