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.
1.1 Functions of the Food Safety and Quality Authority includes: a. The overall official control of food safety and quality; b. Ensuring that food and feed comply with legal requirements, or where 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;
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;
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 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.
Consequent to the above, the Committee of Inquiry had an inception meeting 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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 nonpetitioners 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.
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 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.