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GAMBIA: SECURIPORT CONTRACT IS IT A CURSE OR A BLESSING FOR THE GAMBIA GOVERNMENT?

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Please allow me to devolve into insufferable smugness and say I told you so. Yes, I told you that this Gambia Government contract with Securiport stinks to the high heavens. This is my third opinion piece on this Securiport abusive contract.

The first was when the (Gambia Civil Aviation Authority) GCAA decided to terminate the employment of a bright young man simply because he complained about the Securiport deal on social media. The second opinion piece was about what Securiport does with our data. We still have no idea. You may think I’d be tired of talking about this Securiport issue since, like most things, no one really cares enough.

I honestly don’t know what keeps me going, but few things bother me as much as any form of abuse of a people. And in case you haven’t read it, the audit report on this Securiport contract is as abusive as they come. The audit report is an indictment of the Barrow Government and lays bare the offensive nature of Securitport’s business operations in Africa.

The sad part is this financial abuse could have been prevented by a simple online search about Securiport operations in Africa. We could have learned from Niger or Sierra Leone. Apparently, our government officials supposedly conducted study tours before they signed this contract. Quite incredible! The Africans, particularly the Gambian, will sign or support anything if it temporarily benefits them, no matter how much it is harmful to the people! That’s what this rat race and individualism have led us to. That’s why you see a lot of individual success but collective failure. Chances are, the individuals who championed this Securiport contract and those who signed it stood to benefit from it. I urge you to read the audit report for yourself, but meanwhile, here are a few points to note.

I had stated before that these types of contracts emanate from deep within the cesspools of the President’s Office, and that’s what the audit report indicates. Securiport found their way to the President’s Office, and they were given this contract. According to the audit report, there was no competitive tender! Ring a bell?

I had also stated that Securiport knew our Government would not be able to tag these security fees on airline tickets, and yet they fooled them into believing that this was possible. Again, a simple call to Sierra Leone would have educated our government officials. Our brilliant and degreed officials didn’t even bother with their homework.

According to the audit report, our government officials never even bothered to seek approval from the International Air Transport Association. To add insult to injury, the auditors asked for a copy of the financial and technical proposal. Still, neither the President’s office nor Interior Ministry cared enough to provide this information. You can’t help but wonder why the financial and technical proposals are hidden from the auditors!

Such contracts should go through the Directorate of Public-Private Partnerships. Still, as I said, Securiport knew that by selling to the President’s Office, they wouldn’t have to worry about any other approvals. In The Gambia, decisions on who gets what contracts can come down to which family member or friend of the president the contractor is affiliated with. Gambians should ask about the individuals who brought Securiport to the president’s office. They are probably laughing all the way to the bank!

At the time of signing this Securiport deal, the Ministry of Justice practically advised against signing the agreement. Still, again, Securiport knew that when the President’s office was on board, no legal advice could stop them. According to the audit report, the President’s Office did not listen to its legal counsel.

If you go on Securiport’s various websites, you may be fooled into thinking that they are modern-day Samaritans saving Africans from prominent evil terrorists and transnational criminals. Unfortunately, their business practices in Africa belie this Samaritan posture. But it’s easy to sell this posture to African leaders because our leaders’ biggest fears are any threats to their power. And, of course, any threat to their power is labelled terrorism. Therefore anti, terrorism is big business in Africa. Why there are so many young Africans signing up to fight alongside ideologues and bandits is not as important. In Africa, if you want to remain relevant or influential in the president’s circle, convince him that you are protecting him from his terrorist enemies!

In one of my articles, I stated that anyone with a bit of ambition could manufacture the generic receipts given to passengers who pay these security fees. I wasn’t wrong; the auditors also flagged these generic receipts as violating financial rules. And guess what else Securiport did while our government officials resigned themselves to helplessness? Securiport opened bank accounts in various denominations on their own without involving the government and contrary to the agreement they had.

I can keep going on and on about this financial abuse of The Gambian people, but I hope I’ve raised enough interest for people to go and read this audit report for themselves. Sadly, like all cases of corruption, I suspect that we will complain about this and by tomorrow, we will be speculating on who the next vice president should be, as if that makes any difference for our poor people.

I suspect someone will be angry that I keep talking about this Securiport deal and will try to defend it by attacking me and not addressing the audit report. I suspect that government officials will defend their actions and the secrecy of this deal because they are saving us from big bad terrorists, after all.

I suspect that the government will make promises that they will look into this but they won’t. This contract emanated from the President’s Office, after all. And as usual, we, the people, will complain and move on. Or rather, a few of us will complain, and as one woman told me when I tried to refuse to pay this security fee at the airport, Mr., if you’re not in a hurry to get to your destination, some of us are. Don’t delay us.

Now that I’ve gotten my insufferable smugness out of me, let me apologise for wasting your time on this Securiport deal. Let’s keep paying these fees, and let’s settle for helplessness. Let’s keep hoping and praying that things will somehow get better. Who knows, one day, our prayers may actually be accepted, and we will live happily ever after. Meanwhile, allow me to remind you that people deserve what they accept. If we accept financial abuse from contractors conniving with our government officials, that’s what we deserve! Let’s pray!

BY ALAGIE BARROW!

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