The Director General of Gambia’s Food Safety and Quality Authority Zeinab Jallow has reportedly presented a bounced cheque (Check) of D40, 000.00 dalasis to the Finance Director of the (FSQA) after she had borrowed money from the institution, a government investigation report has revealed. “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,” the investigation report stated.
According to the investigative report “the 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 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.”
The Finance Director Juwara has since resigned from the FSQA.
The investigation also found that job openings were not fairly advertised as required by government policies.
“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,” the report revealed.
“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,” the report added.
According to the investigators “DG Jallow 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.”
Workers at the FSQA had also complained about not having computers at work.
“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,” said the report.
The investigation body had made the following 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.
1 A Scheme of Service should be developed as soon as possible as its operationalization will guard against patronage in recruitment and promotions;
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;
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;
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;
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 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;
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;
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;
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;
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;
11 The Act should be revised to accommodate Deputy Director General position;
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;
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;
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;
15 All decisions on appointments, promotions and dismissals of Officers in categories I and II should be indicated in the minutes of Board meetings;
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;
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;
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;
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;
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;
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
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 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.