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Fertiliser Commission reports corruption in govt.

Mar 21, 2012, 11:51 AM | Article By: Lamin B. Darboe

President Yahya Jammeh has instructed the Attorney General and Minister of Justice to work on the terms of reference for setting up the Permanent Anti-Corruption Commission in earnest, after the report of the Fertiliser Commission highlighted serious administrative malpractices and corruption at the Ministry of Agriculture in Banjul.

The commission when established would strengthen the fight against corruption in the country.

President Jammeh Monday received the report of the Fertiliser Commission at his office in Banjul, and soon after announced that the permanent anti-graft commission was something that he had already given directives for it to take off, even before the Lands Commission was set up.

“So I’m giving you, the Attorney General, one month, and latest by 19th April we should swear in the Permanent Anti-Corruption Commission members,” Jammeh declared.

He said it is not about witch-hunting anybody, but the purpose is to ensure that justice is done.

President Jammeh warned that the rule of law would be applied to the letter, while thanking the commission members for a job-well-done, and the general public for their cooperation.

Shortly after receiving the report, the Gambian leader also gave directives to weed our what he called “rotten elements at the Ministry of Agriculture”.

He asked the new minister of Agriculture to implement his directives, otherwise he will intervene himself to weed them out.

The fertilizer commission set-up by the Gambian leader five months ago was mandated to enquire into fertilizer procurement and distribution in The Gambia.

Six commission members, headed by Justice Emmanuel Nkea a high court judge as chairman, after completing their task presented to President Jammeh a three-volume report, in which they exposed administrative malpractices and corruption at the Ministry of Agriculture.

“There are others that are still within the gangs, but for some reasons are not mentioned in the report; and, what we want at Agriculture is fresh blood because all those responsible for the failure of so many projects are still there; and I’m giving you the task to weed them. If you don’t by the end of the month, I will weed them in my own way. Enough is enough!” the Gambian leader said.

It is sad that anyone in his/her correct senses will think of robbing farmers, President Jammeh said, adding that this was one of the reasons for setting up of the Fertilizer Commission, and vowed that this will put a definitive end to malpractices at the Ministry of Agriculture.

In emphasising that the commission’s report will put to an end to the malpractices, President Jammeh swore to implement the recommendations to the letter.

“I am very cautious with regards to fertilizer, and that is why I always want to make sure that fertilizer is procured from the producer and not from any third party.

“Why? because there are a lot of dangers in buying it from these dealers, especially when you are dealing with an illiterate.

“When you look at the report, and see the calibre of people involved you will agree with me that these are knowledgeable people, but instead of working for the development of this country, they decided to poison farmers and the country; because if you use toxic fertilizer you cause terrible consequences for the farmers” he went on.

The Minister of Agriculture, Solomon Owens, expressed dismay after hearing what the chairman of the commission reported, and expressed hope that this will be a new beginning in the procurement and distribution of all agricultural inputs across the country.

“Fertilizer is very crucial in agricultural production in this country, and hearing what the chairman has just said, I must say its extremely disheartening and disappointing to hear that the technical people, and the Ministry of Agriculture, would be held responsible for all the malpractices that have taken place,” Minister Owen noted.

In presenting the report to President Jammeh at State House, fertilizer commission chairman Justice Emmanuel Nkea highlighted the corrupt practices and other irregularities which surrounded the procurement and distribution of fertilizer, for the 2009-2010 farming season.

He said this was not only made possible by the operational measures adopted by the permanent secretaries concerned, and the personal attitudes of certain individuals at the ministry, but instead the malpractices also showed the behaviour of the entire workforce at the Ministry of Agriculture.

“From the top to the bottom, the staff at the Ministry were complacent and negligent in the discharge of their duties, and the commission members confirmed that corruption, which we thought is no more existing, is still on the rampage again,” Justice Nkea stated.

He said his commission found serious irregularities relating to the award of the procurement and distribution contracts for the 2009 fertilizer.

The commission also noticed serious irregularities in the payment process of the contract sums by the permanent secretary of Ministry of Agriculture.

Justice Nkea said the commission established that the procurement of the 2009 fertilizer from Indonesia was financed with funds from the KR account with the Central Bank of The Gambia. “It was found that neither the quality nor the quantity of the 2009 fertilizer corresponded with the contract specifications,” he announced.

“No serious efforts were made to ensure compliance with quality and quantity before distribution, and over 70 percent of the fertilizers supplied did not correspond to the required label, and turned out to be agronomically ineffective,” Justice Nkea said.

“The commission confirms that the supply of this agronomically ineffective fertilizer was a serious sabotage on government’s drive towards food self-sufficiency,” he declared.

He said that the commission believes that the decision or choice of the Ministry of Agriculture to award the procurement contract to an illiterate with little or no knowledge and experience in fertilizer issues must have been deliberate.

“From the totality of evidence adduced, the commission found nine individuals to bear the greatest responsibility for this scam. The commission also found three other persons guilty of culpable conduct,” Justice Nkea reported.