Amadou Sanneh, Finance Minister

(JollofNews) – Honourable minister, may I start first by congratulating you for your appointment as the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs. I just want to take this opportunity to bring to your attention some areas of government finances where I believe need review.

Standing Orders (SO) and Direct Debits (DD)

It is common practice that governments, institutions and individuals set up Standing Orders and Direct Debits to make regular payments to their creditors. There needs to be a review of all obligations for which the former government set up standing orders and direct debits.

This will ensure that the payments being made are genuine and are not being paid to ghost organisations and individuals. Please reach out to such creditors and encourage them to provide you with a synopsis of the services they provide or provided. These responses in turn need to be review and a cost benefit analysis performed to establish whether they should continue. Where there is evidence that the services are not required, then contracts should be terminated on the terms.

International and Regional Subscriptions
It is also common that government ministries and departments become members of international and regional bodies to which they pay subscriptions. An example of this is The Association of African Central Banks (AACB). Albeit, it is good as a country to be part of international and or regional associations, there is need to review all the associations that the Gambia is part of and again establish whether the benefits of such memberships are flowing to the country.

There is no need to be part of associations where there are no meaningful benefits to the Gambia. Please note that emphasis must not only be placed on financial benefits but also on training and development opportunities that Gambian workers can access.

Professional Membership Subscriptions – Employees
It is no doubt there will be Gambia Government employees who will be members of professional bodies and paying annual membership subscriptions. Honourable minister, your ministry should conduct a due diligent review to establish who are those that professional membership subscriptions are being paid for and whether they still work for the Gambia government. If there are individuals who no longer work for the government, these should be removed.

Pay attention to individuals who do not work for the government in the current year and yet their subscriptions are being paid for. Such individuals should be reported to their professional bodies to be disciplined as that amounts to professional dishonesty. Some people will be querying why go this low; well we need to create a Gambia where the workforce is professional, honest and dedicated to nation building.

Salaries and wages
This is an area requiring greater attention Mr Sanneh. A huge number of Gambian workers are paid their salaries and wages over the counter (Cash in Hand). This is a high-risk area where people could pocket money easily and quite evidently, this should not happen in modern day Gambia.

There is the tendency of ghost employees being created within departments and ministries whose salaries have not been stopped and being paid to greedy paymasters and their cronies. I will urge you to look into the payrolls of ministries whose staff turnover is high such as the ministry of education (no disrespect) where teachers leave willy-nilly due to poor salaries and demotivation. Such resignations and desertions may not be captured in the mainstream financial controls and salaries paid to such teachers may land in the wrong hands.

Honourable minister, please consider the practicality of implementing low cash holding policies in departments and ministries and encourage regular banking of cash receipts. Also of relevance is to encourage employees where possible to have their wages and salaries paid into their bank accounts. This has the advantage of creating more cash flow for the banks but also opening opportunities for account holders to benefit from services provided by banks such as soft loans and financial advices.

Furthermore, the more cash flow for banks the more likely it is for them to lend out. This will increase bank revenue and hence more corporation tax revenue for GRA. I believe that the payroll structure of the Gambia government needs a complete overhaul to ensure that payments are made to real people and not ghosts.

Licensing and Motor Vehicle Taxes (Road Tax)
Currently, motor vehicle licensing and road tax payments are handled by the Gambia Police Force. In my humble opinion, this is a complete waste of police time and the administration involved in it is time consuming. I do not see the reasoning behind using the police force to collect revenue when GRA could have its capacity enhanced to handle this. There is complete chaos when it comes to renewal of licences and road tax at the police headquarters.

I have witnessed instances where senior police officers leave their offices unlocked and are busy helping their friends and relatives renew their vehicle particulars. There is high risk of sensitive information falling into wrong hands where offices are left unattended. “National security will not be compromised” is a quote from the new Minister of Interior; Honourable Mai A Fatty. I will again urge your ministry to work with the ministry of interior to see a smooth transfer of this operation to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs.

I understand that you have a lot to go through but it is also important that we as the citizens play our part in bringing to your attention anything we believe will advance the course of nation building and route out corruption.

For those cyber warriors who take to Facebook to critique any and everything, I would like you to take time out for once and say something that will benefit the nation. Freedom of speech comes with responsibilities and always remember that your right to say anything must not infringe on the rights of others to speak their mind. There needs to be a balance and it is important that we listen to each other “and join our diverse people to proof man’s brotherhood”.

If this memo offends anyone, I make no apologies as I am only giving my little contribution to the new government as they set out to bring the smile back to the “Smiling Coast”.

In conclusion honourable minister, I am calling on all, especially those of us who are not ready just yet to join you on the ground in building our great country, to help out in any way they can.