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Health Minister Itemizes Controversial COVID-19 Millions

The Minister of Health, Amadou Samateh has categorically itemized the necessities that will be bought from the COVID-19 funds to fight the pandemic.

Last week the World Bank approved US$10 million to the Gambia while the government contributed D500 million to fight the disease.

The sum’s hugeness has attracted public interest and left many people questioning how those at the helm could embezzle it at detriment of the sick.

Speaking to journalists Monday, Samateh assures the public that the monies will be judiciously spent. He mentioned the buying of ventilators, personal protective equipment, monitors, ambulances, utility vehicles, ICU beds and other beds, digital x-ray machines for many facilities, laboratory equipment and the consumables to respond to the emergency.

Minister of Health, Amadou Samateh

“So, a whole lot is going to be bought from these monies. When it comes to the budget, when the planning was being done, the various units under the emergency committee came up with their budgets and it was all compiled and it became a little over US$8.8 million.

“This was presented to the partners. Fortunately, the World Bank took it upon itself and now agreed to fund that. In fact, the World Bank is the one trying to procure this equipment that is under the World Bank lot. A lot of these equipment that are going to be bought are under the WB lot,” he said at a news conference.

For the government’s D500 million package, Samateh said part of that money is also going to be used for the health facilities.

“I think this is a unique opportunity to put in all our health facilities the equipment we are lacking so that they are able to deal with COVID-19, and thereafter, they are able to deal with other diseases so the health system is going to be strengthened,” he said.

He disclosed that the health facilities are going to be renovated, upgraded as part of the funding.

“As part of the World Bank support also, they (World Bank) are constructing for us an Infectious Disease Treatment Centre.”

According to him, the ministry of lands has already allocated that land around Brusubi where the state-of-the-art centre will be built. He said other treatment centres will also be constructed including the temporal and permanent structures.

He added that media sensitization programmes and sanitary materials, the police activities which include buying patrolling vehicles are also part of the government’s package.

For allowances, the minister emphasised that only the frontline workers will be allocated, excluding the rest including himself.

Gambian health worker testing the temperature of a man who just crossed from Senegal through Giboroh border
Gambian health worker testing the temperature of a man who just crossed from Senegal through Giboroh border

With many people not sure about corrupt-free of the funds disbursements, he said an ad-hoc committee has been set up comprising the Permanent Secretaries of both Health and Finance Ministries and their staff, Accountant General, Director of Internal Audit and Director General of GPPC to guide the financial expenditure and do the process quickly.

“It’s a robust system. This fund, the D500 million, a special account has been opened for it. It’s called the special projects account and the account is in the Central Bank. It’s out of the ministry’s mainstream account.”

He said the payments of other donations are paid into the same account by the donors themselves and the receipts would be later submitted to the ministry, assuring that the expenditures made from the account will be listed and published regularly.

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