REACTIONS TO THE ALLEGATIONS BY THE FREEDOM NEWSPAPER AGAINST THE MINISTER AND THE MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT WORKS AND INFRASTRUCTURE
On 4 and 6 May 2020, the online Freedom Newspaper published consecutive articles alleging that millions were stolen through corruption, nepotism, among other things, on part of the Minister of Transport Works and Infrastructure, in connivance with other named “culprits.”
On 4 May 2020, the Paper wrote: “Gambia’s Works Minister Bai Lamin Jobe has been named in a fraudulent contract bidding scandal, Freedom Newspaper can reveal. His Ministry had awarded a landscaping contract to the son of Hadim Gai, without following the bidding requirements as stipulated by the Public Procurement Act.”
First, the Minister of Works, like all other Government Ministers, cannot award, sign, or let alone sit even in the evaluation or selection Committee of contracts. The Minister, as a matter of rule, has no role in the day to day procurement process of The Ministry, including the award of contracts; this is the role of the Permanent Secretary. Second, the slandered “landscaping contract,” concerning the Sir Dawda Jawara International Conference Centre, which is actually a sub-contract of the main Chinese contractor – JPC, responsible for the construction of the Centre, is managed at this moment by the Projects Unit of the OIC Secretariat, and not the Ministry of Works. In the same vein, the Gambia Procurement Authority has no business in or authority over the award of sub-contracts by the Chines contractor, JPC.
So, on all four counts of the allegations, regarding the role of the Minister, the role of the Ministry of Works as the contract client, and the role of the Public Procurement Authority as overseer in the award of this sub-contract, are either fabrications or misconceptions, bearing nothing of the truth or reality; in other words, they are a complete set of falsehood, but nonetheless likely intended to disrepute a successfully implemented project by the Ministry, with the assistance of the People’s Republic of China, in the form of a grant of US$50 million. Given the nature of grants, the donor country, agency, or contractors are normally responsible for procurement matters with respect to the funded project.
The Sir Dawda Jawara International Conference Centre is a successfully implemented project, constructed within time and budget, and inaugurated by HE the President since 11 January 2020. It therefore appears, that the Paper, using quadruplet of falsehoods, conjured several other related statements, with the apparent aim to tarnish the image of the Ministry of Works, and by collateral extension, the present Government,
On 6 May 2020, the Paper published what it dubbed as breaking news “…millions stolen from Laminkoto and Trans-Gambia Bridge Road Projects; Gambia’s National Road Authority (NRA) and Works Ministry officials are at the center of the corruption scandaL.” Excerpts from the content of this headline read: “corrupt National Roads Authority officials had allegedly conspired with the Works Minister Bai Lamin Jobe for Hadim Gai to be awarded the Trans-Gambia market shops…NRA insiders, who contacted us said the NRA Manager, Momodou Senghore… is Works Minister Jobe’s front man in that office… according to the insider, a lot of corruption has occurred at the Laminkoto project. NRA officials have been accused of soliciting money from contractors before they would be awarded contracts.”
These allegations also concern mainly two successfully implemented projects: the Senegambia Bridge project, which was a grant from the African Development Bank, completed and inaugurated by HE the President since 21 January 2019, and the Lamin Koto Passimas road project, which was a loan from a consortium of Arab donor agencies, completed and inaugurated by HE the President since 29 February 2020. Just as in the case of the International Conference Centre project, the Paper is seen here spinning spurious narratives on completed projects, and few on-going smaller ones, reportedly prompted by insiders in the NRA; but if the facts are to speak for themselves, they are as follows:
Aside the rigorous checks and balances normally instituted by funding agencies to ensure that project transactions are implemented with high standards of accountability, especially as regard payment certificates against works done by service providers (consultants and contractors alike), these main projects succeeded in ways that should dispel any suspicions of corruption.
As well known, a project, whenever subjected to acts of corruption, including significant negative changes of its scope, usually suffers significant time and cost overruns; both projects passed these tests. Both projects were accomplished within schedule and cost, and with savings to enable the projects to be expanded in scope, to achieve greater results.
The Senegambia bridge was initially designed to be 900 meters in length, spanning from one bank of the river to the other, mainly over water. The bridge was built twice that length, 1800 meters, not only to cross the water, but to cross over additional 900 meters of swamps, which would not have supported the road or sustained heavy traffic without the road sinking and subjected to frequent maintenance. This feat was accomplished within the grant money available for the project by the AfDB.
The Laminkoto Passimas, on the other hand, was designed for 122 kilometers; it was constructed within scope, time and budget, and with enough savings to kick start new construction 18 kilometers road linking Kaleng Junction on the Laminkoto Passimas with Bansang, and another new construction of 13 kilometers road linking Yorobaol and Basse, both of which were not part of the original project scope.
It is quite possible that the articles in the Paper were sponsored by people with axe to grind, for any number of reasons, against the Minister, the Ministry of Works, or Government of The Gambia. But even if this were so, this gives no right to any Paper, however tabloid, to publish statements, without attempts to secure proof of their veracity, especially given the likely harm they could cause to individuals, institutions, and country, all of whom rely on their good image to attract investments, for both the public and private good. If such acts, especially in the latter sense, are not economic crimes, what else could be?
The Ministry of Transport Works and Infrastructure holds that there cannot be any justification on the part of any practitioner in the journalism fraternity or sorority to thrive in the business of false publications and defamation, just because they can do so, as if indemnified to commit such acts, without responsibility. The Ministry holds that to whom much is given, much is also expected, and all media practitioners are hereby challenged to improve standards, seek the truth, and regulate themselves better, in the interest of the greater good.
Written By Bai Lamin Jobe.
Editor’s note: The rejoinder above was forwarded to us by our colleague Sheriff Bojang, the Proprietor of the Standard Newspaper. Bojang had forwarded the rejoinder on behalf of the Works Minister Bai Lamin Jobe.
That said, we want to thank Works Minister Bai Lamin Jobe for his rejoinder.
First off, the Freedom Newspaper, is not a tabloid paper, in which news articles are sponsored to tarnish people’s image, or that of The Gambian government. Please get that!
It is erroneous for Minister Jobe to speculate that the published news articles were “sponsored” to tarnish his image and that of The Gambian government. Hear Works Minister Jobe here: “It is quite possible that the articles in the Paper were sponsored by people with axe to grind, for any number of reasons, against the Minister, the Ministry of Works, or Government of The Gambia. But even if this were so, this gives no right to any Paper, however tabloid, to publish statements, without attempts to secure proof of their veracity, especially given the likely harm they could cause to individuals, institutions, and country, all of whom rely on their good image to attract investments, for both the public and private good.”
We are operating a credible newspaper that is highly sourced, quoted, and researched around the globe. We are too good to allow ourselves to be used by anyone to settle scores. Our journalistic ethics and principles wouldn’t permit such a low-end journalistic practice. NEVER!
Regarding the Chinese government sponsored US$50 million Sir Dawda Jawara International Conference Centre project, we standby the reportage that the landscaping contract was awarded to the son of Haddim Gai. Mr. Gai’s son had in turn decided to sublet the contract to Mrs. Fatou Barry.
Works Minister Jobe has also defended the landscaping contract that was awarded to Haddim Gai’s son in his rejoinder. Hear him again: In the same vein, the Gambia Procurement Authority has no business in or authority over the award of sub-contracts by the Chines contractor, JPC.”
In functioning democratic nations, contracts of such nature, are usually advertised, or placed on a public tender for bidding, unless you meant to tell us that The Gambia is a corrupt banana republic.
The Gambia Public Procurement Act, should not only be respected, but executed to the letter. Failure of which, it would amount to abdication of duties and responsibilities on the side of the Works Minister.
Conversely, it should also be noted that the Chinese contractor JPC, is not operating in The Gambia in isolation. The company was contracted by The Gambian government to execute that US$50 million conference Centre project.
Is Mr. Jobe suggesting that JPC is paying Haddim Gai’s son? A contractor paying another contractor. Why is The Gambian government excluded in this transaction? Does this sound right?
In addition, how can any responsible government allow a foreign contractor to be paying a Gambian vendor, when the contractor JPC, is not the financier of the Chinese US$50 million Sir Dawda Jawara conference Centre? Something is not adding up here.
On the issue of Senegambia bridge, Works Minister Jobe, has not disputed our reportage that contractor Haddim Gai had been awarded the contract to construct market stalls at the bridge. It was a single source contract.
Jobe has also not disputed our reportage that his colleague Balla Musa Ceesay, a Manager at the National Road Authority, was also contracted to construct project camps for the TransGambia bridge and at the Laminkoto road project.
Ceesay owns a company called SMART ENGINEERING. Ceesay, being an employee of The Gambian government, is being awarded project contracts that are under the purview of Minister Jobe’s own Ministry. If this is not a conflict of interest, then I wonder what is the true definition of conflict of interest.
It sounds like the common saying that: “the criminals are running the asylum.”
How comes that Mr. Jobe hasn’t commented on the Kotu Silo project that was awarded to one of his relatives. He was selective in his response.
Finally, we want to reassure Minister Jobe that our stories were published in good faith, without malice, or ill-will.
We wonder why it took Jobe this long for him to react to our past published stories. Your guess is as good as ours. Thanks for your kind attention.