A six-member group identifying itself as concerned staff of the Gambia Tourism Board has written to the national assembly select committee on tourism to investigate various corrupt practices involving top officials including the Minister, Permanent Secretary, former Director General of the board and the current Director of finance.
The alleged dubious activities include corruption in awarding contracts and abuse of office by top officials in the tourism industry.
In a letter obtained by The Chronicle, addressed to the National Assembly Select Committee on Tourism, the concerned staff accused the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hamat Bah, his Permanent Secretary Kodou Jabang Senghore, former director general of Gambia Tourism Board Abdoulie Hydara and current Director of Finance and Administration at the GT Board Ousainou Senghore for wrongly awarding the construction of the Eco-lodges contract to Lerr Group Construction Company as well as interfering in the smooth running of the institute.
“We write to express our concern over the issue of power and corruption at the Gambia Tourism Board. For the past year and half there has been outright and open corruption by both erstwhile Director General and Director of Finance and Administration Ousainou Senghore,” the letter reads.
“These directors who have been placed to manage the affairs and develop the tourism industry economically, sustainably and otherwise have been misusing, abusing and forming and creating dynasties to enriched themselves and their cronies.”
According to them, the aforementioned persons have gone all out to frustrate and ridicule any staff who question their honesty and transparency in dispensing their duties to the state, adding that the minister of tourism and culture have been mute over the issues as well as publicly defending corrupt practices ongoing at the Board.
“In 2018 bids were invited for the construction of the eco-tourism camps and five companies namely Mendura Construction, BB Electricals and Construction, Peace Enterprise, Lamin Jatta Eco Construction, Santa Yalla Construction and Lerr Group.
“Mendura Construction presented a bid amount of D12,121,746,50, BB Electrical and Construction presented a bid price of D14, 628, 032, 80, Peace Enterprise presented a bid amount of D13, 188,075, Lamin Jatta Eco Construction presented a bidding price of D13, 839, 309 Santa Yala Construction presented a bid price of D16, 514, 888 and Lerr Group presented a bid price of D26, 199, 667, 84,” the letter disclosed.
They said the decision to award the contract to Lerr Group was challenged by some concerned staff who questioned the huge difference of D10million between Lerr Group and other bidders who are willing to run the project at an affordable price. They added that the matter was since forward to Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) who later advised that other engineers should be engaged to do the estimating.
“Two engineering firms namely Sphinx Associates and Sheikh Mahfoos both agreed that Lerr Groups bid was too high. Shiekh Mahfoos gave a ceiling of D19, 000, 000.00 for the construction of the project but Gambia Tourism Board went ahead and awarded a contract of D22, 338, 105 against the advice of the GPPA,” they stated in a letter to the national assembly select committee on tourism.
“The directors, knowing that the concerned staff were right, decided to use the covid-19 situation, decided to send all staff home and in their absence, went ahead to sign the contract with Lerr Group,” they alleged.
The concerned staff have subsequently written to the National Assembly Select Committee to launch an investigation into the circumstances leading to the awarding of a contract to Lerr Group.
They argued that the contract was solely awarded at the discretion of the director of finance aided by his wife Kodou Jabang Senghore as the PS Ministry of Tourism and Culture and Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hamat Bah.
They’re also concerned about the wrongful allocations of lands to business entities in which they accused Minister Bah, Mr. Senghore and former Director General of the Board Abdoulie Hydara of wrongfully orchestrating the waive of 5 percent for businesses.