Abubacarr S Camara, the Director General of the Gambia Tourism Board
By Ramatoulie Jawo
Abubacarr S. Camara, the Director General of the Gambia Tourism Board (GTB), and Mrs. Cordu L.Jabang Senghore, the former Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture who is now the Permanent Secretary at the Office of the Vice President (OVP), appeared before the National Assembly Standing Committee on Public Petition Committee on Wednesday, October 25, 2023.
Camara was the first to appear before the committee to provide answers to questions regarding a petition filed by GTB staff related to the construction of eco-lodges across the country.
Hon. Sulayman Saho, the National Assembly member for Badibou Central and a member of the committee, asked Camara to update the committee on the progress of work at the eco lodges.
Camara said that the contractor for the Sotuma Samba eco-lodge has completed most of the work, but there are some defects that need to be resolved before the project can be handed over to the GTB.
“Before the project could be handed over to us, we thought those defects had to be resolved. We deemed it fitting to engage an expert who went to the place and did a thorough assessment of the place and confirmed our observation, and we wrote to the contractor to inform him that he needed to resolve those defects”, he said.
For the Barra Eco-Lodge, Camara said that the contractor has been constantly requesting more money to continue the work. He said that the GTB has sent the contractor D5 million to continue the work, but the work is still at the same stage as it was during the GTB’s last visit to the site in July.
“But from our engagement, we realized that the work is where it was during our last visit to the site in July, and the contractor has been telling us that he is expecting someone to come and do the roofing, which was one of the key things that was not finished”. He said.
Camara said that the contractor for the Kungkliling Eco-Lodge said he needed D1.5 million to continue the work, and the GTB gave him the money after he convinced them that the work needed to be continued to prevent further damage. However, Camara said that the contractor later stopped work because of the heavy rains.
“But at some point he mentioned to us that because of the heavy rains the place was not accessible, so he stopped work, but he has made some progress at Kungkilling eco-lodge,” he said.
Camara said that the contractor has promised to complete the work at the Barra and Kungkilling eco-lodges by November.
When asked about the duration of the construction of the eco-lodges, Camara said that the lodges were agreed to be constructed within 17 months, but that has not been realized. He said that it is now over 36 months.
The second witness before the committee was Mrs. Cordu L. Jabang Senghore, the Permanent Secretary at the Office of the Vice President (OVP). Senghore told the committee that her role as an ex-officio member of the GTB board was basically to represent the Ministry at board meetings.Senghore was asked whether she remembered approving the awarding of the contract to Lerr Group relating to the eco lodges. She said that the role of the contracts committee is different from the roles of the governing council, and that the contracts committee has rules that it follows when it comes to awarding contracts.
“This also includes comparing and considering the procurement matters at hand, and that is different from what the roles of the governing council would be as a member of the governing body; we would not be in a position to really be ones that would award contracts; we don’t award contracts as a governing body,” she said.
Senghore said that the governing council is not responsible for awarding contracts and that this is an operational matter that is relevant to the management and the GT Board.
The Tourism Minister, Hamat Bah, was also scheduled to appear before the committee, but he was attending another state matter outside the country. The committee has rescheduled him to appear before them on Wednesday, November 1, 2023.