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Food Safety boss in grip of corruption, nepotism allegations

Jan 17, 2020, 12:20 PM | Article By: Fatou Bojang

The staff of Food Safety and Quality Authority of The Gambia (FSQA) have accused their director general, Zainab Jallow, of corruption, mismanagement and nepotism.

The allegations were made at a press conference held on Wednesday as 32 of 53 staff signed a petition demanding better working conditions.

Speaking at the press briefing, Alhagie Sowe, food inspector, FSQA, said the petition came as a result of the ‘abuse of office’ by the director general of FSQA.  He clarified that their petition was not to ask for any salary increment or promotions. “As staff of the FSQA, we are concerned about the bad leadership of the current director general and thus wish to bring forward the constant difficulties we face working under an extreme toxic work environment,” he pointed out. 

According to Mr. Sowe, the petition filed against Madam Jallow was not the first petition, stating that the first petition against her was in 2018. “A simple complaint against her bad leadership and mismanagement means you are a bad employee, hence you are sidelined, outcast, frustrated and forced to resign or she waits for you to commit an error to be fired,” he stated.

He highlighted their grievances such as lack of regular staff meetings, lack of collaboration with stakeholders, which he said, has rendered the institution to only operate at the Points of Entry, isolating provincial Gambia.

“Lack of commitment on the part of our director general is daunting hence she claimed lack of funds but she travels frequently, even when some trips are meant for junior staffs only to collect per diem. In some cases, she travels nothing less than twice a month,” he divulged.

According to Sowe, promotions in the office were based on personal relationships and affiliation rather than productive efficiency and education.

“Preferential treatment is given to companies based on their closeness to the director even when their practices are in clear violation of the Food Safety and Quality Act 2011. One clear example is; the Best Water Factory was closed and then released without laboratory results of samples that were sent to Germany.”

He highlighted some challenges in the office such as office space allocation to staff posted to the regions, lack of computers, proper accommodation and other materials needed at the seaport unit such as computers for report writing, others.

“An internal memo dated 9th January 2019 from the director general of FSQA and signed by the director of Scientific Affairs Mr. Bai Dodou Jallow was issued to some of the petitioners (22 members), who signed the petition against the DG on the 7 October , 2019. To our dismay, the memo informed the recipients to go on administrative leave without pay with immediate effect while the outcome of the investigation is still pending,” he said.

He added that they continue to lose staff under the leadership of the current DG due to the many reasons highlighted in the petition. “The most recent is losing our director of Finance who resigned a week ago leaving our finance Directorate and Human Resource units without heads.”

The affected staff, however, recommended for the outcomes of the investigation be known to them for transparency, also sending staff on administrative leave without pay be revoked among a host of others.

Reacting to these allegations, Director General Zainab Jallow said it was junior staff of the Food Safety and Quality Authority that “were sent on administrative leave for refusing to go to work and comply with due directions from management in line with the Service Rules and Civil Service General Orders, unlawfully used the premises of the Authority to hold an unsanctioned press conference contrary to General Orders of the Government for Civil Servants and FSQA rules and regulations.”

“It is regretful that these staff took the decision to publicize their personal grievances and litany of false allegations and slander, that has been part of their Petition to the Office of the Vice President and that have been fully investigated and found to be false, but they persist in contravention of all norms of good governance and the Law.”

The Authority  is an agency of the Government of The Gambia and under the Office of The Vice President and all matters with regard to errant and unacceptable conduct of these junior staff will be dealt with according to the GO and Service Rules.”