By Mama A. Touray
The Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA) has approved the procurement of a D3m Prado jeep for the Mayor of Banjul Rohey Malick Lowe via restricted tender.
This disclosure was made by GPPA’s Director of Compliance, Procurement Policy and Operations at Monday’s hearing of the Local Government Commission of Inquiry.
In their testimonies before the commission, GPPA directors Samba J.B Tambura and Ebrima Sanyang cast their minds back to 4 October 2018, when the BCC allegedly solicited an upfront payment of 40% of the cost of the jeep, saying the council was at the time faced with financial constraints. The duo explained that BCC made the undertaking to settle the 60% in four months’ time.
According to GPPA’s compliance director Mr. Tambura, the contracts committee of the BCC was informed by the CEO on 6 September 2018, that the mayor’s vehicle was purchased in 2011 and was in good condition thanks to regular maintenance. The contracts committee, he stated, comprised the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), director of finance, director of planning and some newly-elected councilors.
Deputy Lead Counsel Patrick Gomez put to the witnesses that the letter that the BCC sent to suppliers indicated that the vehicle was in a bad state and that the reasons given by BCC for the use of restricted tendering were not sufficient.
Witness Tambura agreed that the justification was not sufficient when he was told that GPPA approved the procurement without sufficient justification but was quick to state that there must be a justification for the use of a particular method regardless of the circumstances. He told the commission that justification can also be in the minutes of the contracts committee.
“And to us that contains more weight because that is what is signed by all members at the meeting and the cover letter is sometimes given to somebody, who is not even aware of the process,” he testified.
Counsel Gomez pointed out that the minutes of BCC’s contracts committee meeting did not contain any justification for the use of restricted tendering.
He adduced that he was surprised because the file did not contain Form 002; the justification for the use of restricted tendering.
But deputy lead counsel Gomez told Tambura not to be surprised as that has been the norm in most of the procurements as he referred him (Tambura) to the procurement reports of the councils.
“I agree Counsel,” Tambura stated. And he added: “We have seen a series of instances of violations and I think the writings are very clear on the wall”.
Lawyer Gomez highlighted the concern of the Deputy Mayor that GPPA was to allow BCC to purchase a new vehicle for the Mayor without agreeing to dispose of the present vehicle. In response, BCC CEO said: “GPPA does not have a say in the transaction.”
Lawyer Gomez contended that this translated to BCC’s lack of respect for the GPPA as a procurement authority.
“Yes counsel,” agreed Tambura.
Messrs. Tambura and Sanyang insisted that the number of vehicle suppliers in The Gambia is limited and this is why GPPA always advises procuring organizations (area councils) to use restricted tendering.
Meanwhile, according to the report, CFAO was awarded the contract and the BCC wrote to CFAO on 10 January 2019, indicating that they have paid D1,380,000 as a 40% down payment.
The Commission of Inquiry observed that BCC did not provide GPPA with the contract documents it signed with CFAO and according to Tambura, the council should have provided GPPA with the contract documents.