By Assan Sallah, (LTN) Germany
The former Managing Director (retired) of the Gambia National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) Mr. Yaya F. Barrow has transformed the GNPC into a profit-making company within a short stint of his career managing director. Mr. Barrow was the Managing Director of GNPC from October 2018 to September 2022. He comes from a private sector background and has about 25 years of senior management experience in the financial services sector having worked for Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) in The Gambia, the Middle East, India, and East Africa.
Until his retirement at Standard Chartered Bank, he was Head of Banking Operations (Trade, Cash and Commodities) for Eastern and Southern Africa Regions at the Shared Service Centre in Standard Chartered Bank Kenya, with oversight of 6 countries.
Prior to that, he worked briefly under the Regional Chief Information Officer (CIO) South Asia, SCB India, Mumbai and also worked as Chief Information Officer (CIO), at SCB Afghanistan. This was preceded by a 14-year stint at Standard Chartered Bank Gambia. More recently, he held the position of Deputy Managing Director and Head of Operations at AGIB Bank Gambia before taking up the position of Managing Director, in October 2018.
Mr. Barrow’s certifications started with a Higher Teachers Certificate from Milton Margai Teachers College under the Institute of Education, University of Sierra Leone, with a Major in Mathematics and minor in Geography. He went on to become an AFGRAD Fellow and studied at the University of Tennessee Knoxville, USA, where he bagged a Master’s Degree in Public Administration specialising in Public Finance and B. Sc. in Business Administration with double majors in Finance and Mathematics.
ACHIEVEMENTS UNDER MANAGING DIRECTOR YAYA F. BARROW – 2019 TO 2022
Prior to joining the corporation in the last quarter of 2018, GNPC was a loss-making entity. In 2017 the institution made a net loss of D341,379,000 and in 2018 the net loss deepened to D409,899,000.
However, in the first full year of Mr. Barrow’s tenure as Managing Director in 2019, GNPC succeeded in turning around the corporation to a profit-making entity. In 2019 the corporation registered a net profit of D11.6M and in 2020 a net profit of D97.7M.
Thus, for the first time in the history of GNPC, the Corporation under Mr Yaya F. Barrow’s, was able to pay to the government dividends of D3,000,000 and D6,000,000 for 2019 and 2020 respectively. The management account for 2021 reveals a gross profit in excess of D70milion dalasi. However ever the external auditors are yet to complete the audit for 2021 accounts. In short, MD Yaya F. Barrow with the support of the Board, management and staff has transformed have turned around GNPC and placed it on the trajectory of profit making.
INFORMATION SYSTEMS AND BUSINESS TRANSFORMATION
During Mr. Barrow’s tenure, a number of information systems migrations were initiated and new ones instituted to enhance internal controls, improve efficiency and effectively transform the way GNPC does business. The financial accounting package was migrated to FinEx Accounting Package from Navision Accounting Package due to an inappropriate upgrading of the old system hindering the production of management reports, annual financial statements, etc. The Payroll System was also migrated to Paypro Payroll Package from Navision Payroll system due to fundamental deficiencies in system-generated reports, particularly on loans.
Additionally, the following new systems were developed in-house by the IT team through the initiative of a task force led by the Finance team: Automated Coupon Management System (to curb coupon-related fraud; ensure automated and real-time coupon redemption); Station Application System (for online monitoring of the activities of the Service Stations). The GNPC under Mr. Barrow has also implemented an Automatic Tank Gauge System to ensure efficient fuel stock management and mitigate stock losses.
CORPORATE RESTRUCTURING AND STANDARDISATION
In recent years, the Corporation in collaboration with GNPC (Ghana) under the MOU, has worked on an industry-standard Scheme of Service for senior management. Existing units were amalgamated into two new Departments namely; Commercial Department (comprising Marketing, Bulk and Supply and Retail units) and Exploration and Production Department (comprising Geoscience, Reservoir and Drilling Engineering units). Directors were recruited to head these departments and the existing ones of Audit, Operations and HR. These appointments give full complement of the number of Directors required as opposed to only one in 2018.
TRAINING / CAPACITY BUILDING
The GNPC Administration under Mr. Barrow continued to develop the institutional capacity needed to meet up with the challenges and dynamics of the industry and to guide and accelerate the country’s exploration efforts. Staff are sent on long-term training overseas for professional development. Mr. Barrow also initiated sponsorship for staff to attend various short-term corporate training, industrial attachments and seminars in order to upskill them for the efficient and effective execution of their roles and responsibilities, and to prepare them for future challenges. Training collaboration has also been forged with the signing of an M.O.U with PETRONAS (Malaysia) training institutions UTP and CAPE (2019).
Since joining the corporation, more than 80% of the staff at all levels have had one form of training or the other either locally or overseas.
The downstream sector since Mr. Barrow’s tenure comprises of a network of 10 fuel retail stations country wide. The Corporation continues to enhance its downstream sector by developing a network expansion plan to make quality and affordable fuel products available to Gambians nationwide.
Network Expansion is the key driver to bringing GNPC quality service to the doorsteps of its growing customer base. Between 2010- 2016, 9 Service stations were built. However, in 2021, the GNPC under Yaya F. Barrow’s administration built a flagship station at Brusubi near the Head Office Building. Construction of a replica at airport junction has been completed which brings it to a total of 11 service stations.
As a business entity and minority equity partner that represents government’s commercial interest, GNPC actively promotes the petroleum potential of The Gambia through its Exploration & Production Department (alongside the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and the Petroleum Commission) in order to attract investors in the capital-intensive exploration sector for which single activities cost tens of millions of dollars.
This is done through oil and gas exhibitions and conferences worldwide where GNPC partakes alongside sister NOCs in technical discussions, knowledge sharing, and charting a way forward in exploration.
Consequently, and historically, GNPC gained its first participating interest in a license from exploration stage in 2019 when it signed a Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) with British Petroleum in the A1 Block. However, due to changes in policy and strategy, BP discontinued exploration in frontier markets and surrendered its license to the government of The Gambia. Consequently, the GNPC, Petroleum Commission and the Ministry of Petroleum negotiated with BP for compensation for failing to fulfill the work programme as agreed in the license. The payment was made to the government in 2021 during Mr. Barrow’s tenure as MD.
The Corporation has set up the Exploration Activity Project Portfolio comprising the creation of a Geological and Geophysical Data Centre manned by GNPC, Preparations for rights of entry into open acreages specifically the onshore blocks and Institutional reforms to enable visibility and competitiveness in its upstream mandate.
In line with Government’s renewable energy policy objective and the global energy transition agenda, the corporation partnered with UNIDO in the Solarization of all GNPC Service Stations and the Petroleum House. Specific Objectives of the project were to champion renewable energy; reduce the corporation’s high electricity bill. The project was jointly funded by a grant from UNIDO covering 30% (US $209,000) of the project cost and GNPC footing 70% (US $488,000) of the project cost. The project has since been completed.
Installation of CCTVs: The entire head office building and premises, and the ten Filling Stations across the country are all fitted with CCTVs. These have proved useful and assisted Management to view footages of incidences of robbery attacks, theft and fraudulent activities at the stations. The CCTVs assisted in the identification and apprehension of robbers who attacked the GNPC Abuko Filling Station.
The corporation has signed regional Memoranda of Understanding (M.O.U) with PETROSEN of Senegal, GNPC of Ghana, ONAP of Mali. Plans are in place to revive the MOU with SMHPM of Mauritania and sign new ones with PETROGUIN (Guinea Bissau), PDSL (Sierra Leone), SONAP (Guinea Conakry) and NOCAL (Liberia
International Recognition, Honors and Awards: GNPC is also recognized for equitable gender representation and technical leadership in an industry where globally women form only 7% of the technical and managerial workforce and has attracted international awards for contributions and presentations made by Management at oil and gas and energy forums.
Corporate Social Initiatives and Other Sectoral Contributions- The GNPC renovated the accident and emergency ward in Brikama, WCR; the maternity wing in Bansang Hospital.
GNPC singularly donated one million Dalasi in 2020 to the fundraising initiative for Covid’19 response and more recently procured some items for the Covid Centre in Bakau. GNPC also contributed one million Dalasi to the Scorpions AFCON debut in 2022.
During the fuel crisis in 2021, GNPC salvaged the country by importing 7,000 MT of Gas Oil and 5,000 MT of Petrol to ensure the country continues to have fuel supply.
In a nutshell, all these achievements were registered under the tenure of Mr. Yaya F. Barrow as MD with support of the Board, Management and staff of the Corporation from 2019 until his retirement in 2022.