By: Madi Jobarteh
It is seven days now since Malagen published a damning story about the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy Ousman Bah awarding a contract worth seven hundred thousand dalasi to his former company for the training of information officers. Mr. Bah was appointed minister in June 2022 when he was the CEO of the Indian Institute of Hardware Technology (IIHT). Yet within months of assuming office, his ministry went to give his former company a huge contract without making any open tender. How can a ministry identify one company or accept an offer from a single company to give such a contract, not to mention the fact this company was owned by the minister? Is that not a clear case of conflict of interest?
It is seven days today and the President has not spoken about this matter. The Government Spokesman Ebrima Sankareh has not issued any statement. The Attorney General Dawda Jallow and his DPP Abdurrahman Maitama Yusuf have not taken any action. The IGP Abdoulie Sanyang has also not taken any action. In any normal country such a media report would have triggered all the relevant institutions and officials to investigate the matter to ensure that there is no illegality, abuse of office and corruption.
For example, in Ghana in 2018, investigative journalist Anas reported that there was massive abuse of office and bribery within the Ghana Football Association. Immediately the Association acted on the report by investigating and prosecuting all the people implicated in the report. Earlier in 2015, the same Anas released a report about corruption, bribery, and demand for sex in the Ghana judiciary. This report also led to the suspension of 12 high court judges and 22 lower court judges and a judicial inquiry opened. In the Gambia itself, when Malagen reported about corruption and bribery in the Ministry of Fisheries, we saw the Government act against the former Permanent Secretary Dr. Bamba Banja in 2021 leading to his trial and imprisonment for two years.
Therefore, why has President Barrow and his officials failed to act this time against the Minister Ousman Bah in a matter that clearly exposes conflict of interest, abuse of office and disregard of procurement rules hence exposure of blatant corruption? What is so special about this company, IIHT, such that it has to be single-sourced? One would have thought that the Minister would rather engage GTMI first, which is a government agency to deliver this training. And in any case why did the Ministry refuse to call for proposals from multiple service providers, but to go to only one company? What is special about this company?
It is clear from this matter that indeed the Gambia Government is not interested in the fight against abuse of office and corruption. What is evident is that the Government only engages in selective justice which is why action was taken against Dr. Banja, and not against Minister Ousman Bah or former Minister Abba Sanyang who was allowed to just resign when the Government itself said he committed actions that were in contravention of his role as a minister. Therefore, I demand Pres. Adama Barrow to pardon and release Dr. Banja immediately if similar action is not taken against other corrupt officials. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.
What is even more disappointing is the fact that no one seemed to be outraged in this country against corruption. Otherwise, this story should have generated a swift and strong reaction from political parties, CSOs and individuals across society to demand accountability. But as usual, this issue is totally ignored like every wrong thing in this country, yet we claim to love the Gambia and are committed to making it a better place. How? When we are silent about the wrongs and ignore perpetrators and allow those responsible to correct the wrongs to fail in their duties then we are preparing our country for doom and gloom.