The recent donor conference in Belgium is reported to have raised 1.45 billion euros for the tiny Gambia all due to the new path we have decided to follow as a collective and out of sympathy for the maladministration we endured for 22 years under Jallow Kanilai. The hard truth is we are getting these foreign aids (charity) because our country’s affairs, including the economy, have been mismanaged and ruined by Yaya Jammeh and his enablers during his reign of terror. With this announcement, a lot of us are excited and hopeful that with these funds our fortunes as a country will change for the better. This should lead to good economic growth and improved standards of living. However, we should not be jubilating, rather we should be making self-reflection and asking ourselves why we are where we are now? In every step on the way, Yaya Jammeh was accompanied, helped, encouraged and enabled by us Gambians. Just look at more than one hundred and thirty sittings of the Janneh Commission and the shameful revelations of Gambians from all works of life. This is not about Jammeh alone but it speaks to the general behavior, mentality and attitude of Gambians as a whole. It must be noted that these funds raised were pledges and our ‘Begger-in-Chief’ did not come home with suitcases full of euros. However, we expect most of these funds to be disbursed over the next few years as promised and the question is are we going to put them into good use that will lead to genuine economic growth which will prevent us from stretching our begging hands in ten or fifteen years’ time asking for more help? It is no secret that former president Jawara spent all his presidential life begging without ever addressing the root causes of why we keep begging. President Jammeh did not only spent his entire presidency begging but also extorting from donors like Taiwan. The end result of fifty years of corruption and inaptitude on the part of our elites and those entrusted with our destiny is obvious: abject poverty, embarrassing, crippling and unsustainable national debt. How can a poor country like the Gambia grow its economy with a debt burden of 130% of GDP? What difference did those fifty years of begging make in our lives and standard of living? I hope third time/administration is the charm and President Barrow has enough lessons to learn from the inaptitude of his predecessors and put to strategic and productive use the funds that have been pledged. If these funds are used to develop our agriculture, fishery etc. sectors that are self-sustaining, we will never go back with our hands stretch with begging bags in the future. SOCIAL SECURITY AND HOUSING FINANCE CORPORATION (SSHFC) What is happening at SSHFC is abomination. Watching the video interview given by the Managing Director, Mr. Manjang, one could easily see that he speaks for most Gambians who want progress and a clean break from our wasteful past. The claims that none of the funds managed by the institution made a profit in 2016 and staff loans outstanding (D130 million) could actually be more than that of sister parastatals such as Gamtel, GPA, NAWEC etc. combined is totally unacceptable. Who is in a better position to bring drastic changes to our used, abused and failing national companies than a competent, qualified and patriotic Gambian coming from outside those institutions? Change is hard and will always attract resistance but drastic changes attract even stiffer resistance. Genuine changes are unlikely to come from insiders however smart and sincere they may be. However, to bring genuine changes, the leader must not only show resolve but must follow what he preaches….no monkey preaching! He has to lead by example and sacrifices have to start with the leader. The fact that Mr. Manjang accepted a mobile phone costing D65,000 (more than annual salary of an average Gambian worker), a car costing D2.4 million and D50,000 monthly home internet bill is totally unacceptable from a man who wants a total break from the past and wants to move the company forward. It must be noted that Mr. Manjang never denied these allegations but simply tried to justify them on the basis of tradition that he is claiming to change. He should have known better. On the part of the disgruntle employees, they may be resistant to changes that will affect their bottom lines but which is necessary for the institution, pensioners and the Gambia as a country. They should not be allowed to undermine the effective operations of SSHFC. If SSHFC is unable to produce simple statements for pensioners etc., what is wrong with bringing in an outsider like JAMAL to solve the problem? If SSHFC has internal resources to solve this simple IT problem why has it been lingering? What makes one suspicious of the disgruntled staff is their calling for reinstatement of former managing directors like Mr. Graham and Mr. Danso. Are people blind and deaf to the revelations being made at the Janneh Commission which took place under the watchful eyes of those leaders? These past MD’s had their chances and we have seen the results. Are there invisible hands agitating these disgruntled staff to get rid of Mr. Manjang? What is happening at SSHFC is so toxic that if not urgently and properly addressed it could seriously undermine the success or even survival of the institution. The staff could undermine and frustrate the Managing Director in his efforts to bring progressive changes and the country as a whole will pay dearly for the actions of a few people. Since nobody clearly knows exactly what the true intent of either side is, it is the responsibility of the government, probably through the Ministry of Finance in collaboration with the Board of Directors of SSHFC to launch thorough, fair and unfiltered investigation into the issues being raised. At the end of the investigation whoever is found wanting, down from the messenger up to the Managing Director, they must be held accountable. If the accusations levelled against the Managing Director including favouritism are found to be true, he must be booted and replace with an outsider. On the other hand if any staff is found to be unjustifiably creating the toxic environment and resisting genuine changes, they must be booted and punished. The Gambia is bigger than any individual and nobody should be allowed to hide behind the so-called New Gambia to obstruct progress for their selfish interest. SSHFC should be an engine of growth in the Gambia and for it to fulfill its full potential, there must be a total break from the past. That new direction must come from someone weather be it the current Managing Director or someone else is yet to be seen. If this situation is left unaddressed simply because nobody wants to make hard and difficult decisions including the SSHFC’s governing body, Board of Directors, Ministry of Finance or the executive, the same template will be used at other government institutions to either undermine genuine, hardworking and patriotic executives or corrupt, inaptitude and incompetent executives could abuse their power without consequence. The Managing Director, the hardworking staff of SSHFC and most importantly the Gambian taxpayers deserve justice and accountability and they need it right now.

Sadibou J.


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