The Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure (MoTWI), recently organized its fifth retreat at ABCA’s Creek in Foni, Bintang.
The purpose of the retreat was to have face-to-face discussions among the senior staff of the various Departments and Public Enterprises under the Ministry. It was occasion for frank dialogues on successes, failures, challenges, and the way forward.
In his opening statement, Hon. Bai Lamin Jobe, Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure (MOTWI), recalled to the participants the key areas that concerned the sector under the National Development Plan (NDP), 2018- 2021, and the results that were achieved in this respect.
“The key areas include the completion of primary road network from 80% to 100%; reconstruction of 250 kilometers of urban roads in Greater Banjul Area; construction of a bypass from Sting Corner to Abuko; increase the operational capacity of air transport facilities at the Banjul International Airport from 300,000 to 500,000 passengers per year; construction of a Dry Port in Basse; draft a National Public Building Facilities Policy, and update the National Transport Policy,” he said.
Minister Jobe challenged the participants to cast critical eyes on the noted key areas and to evaluate with honesty how far the different sub-sectors have fulfilled these promises.“Sectors must analyze challenges against their targets and map out strategies for the way forward, as well as adopt realistic approaches to implement their strategies,” he added. He pointed that despite the outbreak of the corona virus, the different sub-sectors have shown resilience, and have achieved modest gains. He called upon the different sub-sector Heads to look into innovative financing mechanisms, and to tap into local sources to finance projects and programs.
Mod K. Ceesay, Permanent Secretary, MOTWI, for his part, described the retreat as an opportunity to share ideas and information from the different sectors under the Ministry.
“This retreat will strengthen the already existing bonds among the different sector institutions who are gathered here today. It is also about reflecting on the key points that were highlighted in the previous Retreat and to assess how far the sectors have implemented those key pledges,” he said. He urged the participants to identify the challenges and come up with tangible recommendations and suggestions for the way forward.
Ebrima Cham, Director General of Gamworks, highlighted series of projects his Agency is currently implementing in different parts of the country; such as the US$ 30 million for the Agriculture Value Chain Project, to rehabilitate storage facilities at Saro and to use groundnut shells and sludge to run NAWEC power plants, the construction of the new Basse market, the construction of a three-storey office complex for The Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA); the construction of dormitories in Mansakonko, and the construction of a fish smoking house in Gunjur, among other projects.
The other participants from the Ministry’s Departments and Public Enterprises also had their turn to present their Progress Reports and Work Plans, and to highlight the challenges they faced and the strategies and plans they had in order to make headway.
Ramatoulie Ceesay, Principal Planner, under that the planning unit of the Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure in her presentation, brought up the issue of separating The National Transport Facilitation and Trade Facilitation as the functions of the two are different, adding that the former is focused on traffic management and environmental issues while the latter is related to business.
She also stated that there is the need for strengthening cooperation with Senegal on road freight transportation between the two neighboring countries. Furthermore, she suggested that the Gambia Maritime Administration (GMA), be included in the membership of transport committees set up, so that their concerns could be raised.
On speed humps, she presented that they should be created near villages and should be informed by data and that priority be given to school zones preferably before and after the school as children are the most vulnerable.
On Transport Unions, she suggested that the constitution of The Gambia allowed for freedom of association and since unions have registered through the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry cannot avoid working with them, she said.
At the end of her presentation, the issue of addressing the instances of too many Police checkpoints around the country was also raised.
In his presentation, Abdul Karim Cham, Principal Engineer under the Directorate of Technical Services of the Ministry, said that capacity building programme for the technical services department is crucial and there would be short- and long-term trainings and recruitment of various staff for each of the vacant positions in the DTS.
He further pointed out that preparations are in advanced stages for the implementation of The National Public Building Facilities Policy (NPBFP), and the procurement of specialized equipment for the building team.
According to him, construction for the mausoleum and memorial center for the former president (Late Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara), will be done this year; and that the AU villas and residence in Brufut heights will be renovated and that of the office building of State House for the security and protocol personnel.
Mr. Cham further presented that a new Chancery and ambassador’s residence in Riyadh, kingdom of Saudi Arabia is under construction and that of the Governor of North Bank Region, construction of the new office buildings for the Ministry of Environment in Abuko and a host of other projects, all expected to be carried out in 2021.
On behalf of the National Road Authority (NRA), Bannie Taiwo Chapman outlined the achievements of the Authority in areas of roads and bridges, including the recently started roads for the Hakalang and in the North Bank Region in Ngayen Sanjal and Kaur Jimbala. He brought up, however, the need to develop local capacity in civil works design and construction, and to develop robust maintenance schemes to enhance the life span of the roads through management of axle loads on the road networks. He pointed to the importance of data collection and instituting a system of periodic traffic surveys and installation of automatic recording sensors or devices for traffic monitoring. Mr. Chapman recommended the acquisition of equipment for the construction of roads and infrastructural projects in order to promote local participation in projects.
During his reaction to the NRA presentation, the Minister observed that the biggest investment the country makes consistently every year is on infrastructure, in particular, on civil works, such as on roads and bridges, and the largest debt that the country incurs is from such investments. The Minister lamented that despite this fact only five (5) percent of this huge investment is accessed by our local consultants and contractors by way of contracts, since most of it is awarded to foreign firms. The Minister said this has to change if the infrastructure development going on in the country is to have positive impact on the economy or on employment.
Managing Director of The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA), Ousman Jobarteh, outlined various initiatives in progress, based on a 20-year Master Plan and 5-year Business Plan, prepared by Royal Haskoning of the Netherlands. The Plans seek to expand the Port’s infrastructure, in terms of operational capacity and efficiency, in order to handle the increasing demand for Port services. The development requires extension of the wharfs, increase in the container space, dredging, more cargo handling equipment, and computerization of Port operations. The Authority also wishes to develop river transportation and creation of Dry Ports up country. He noted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in this regard had been entered into with INFRACO.
According to the Port’s Managing Director, the issue of over staffing at GPA is being addressed by an HR Audit which was conducted; it is to be followed by job evaluation exercise being undertaken in-house, with a view to identify those job holders that should exit and those to be retained, based on the job titles that are needed by the Authority.
The Minister noted that the GPA, among all the Enterprises under the Ministry, achieved the least development with respect to its infrastructure or operational capacity or efficiency, since 2017. He lamented that the lack of improvement is almost like a culture embraced by management, although there are all kinds of studies and planning continuously going on by consultants. The Minister challenged the MD to change the GPA’s direction in this regard.
The presentation of the Gambia Maritime Administration (GMA) on its Work Plan and achievements during the reporting period was undertaken by Abas Saidykhan, a Marine Surveyor. He elaborated on GMA’s capacity building in the marine sector in collaboration with GTTI. He noted that the capacity building also requires installing marine surveillance equipment, which is a costly initiative. He mentioned, during the discussions, about a sunken truck at the Senegambia Bridge. Mr. Saidykhan urged the NRA to compel the contractor to use all available technologies to remove the truck. He revealed that GMA will be recruiting more safety inspectors for regional coverage, and will organize more in-house trainings in this respect.
The presentation of the Gambia Transport Services Company (GTSC) was done by Mustapha Colley. Among other things, he revealed that the company has interest to tap to the fullest the regional market as well as the national, also, to revive Kotu Workshop as their hub for their urban operations. He expressed that the GTSC is interested to work with GPA to venture into river transportation.
“Within The Gambia, GTSC plans to open up new routes. We will also increase the size of our fleet, and will start new bus services to Senegal and Mauritania,” he said. He further mentioned that GTSC also plans to engage Government on the acquisition of more depots in strategic areas across the country.
Sulayman Janneh of The Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) said the issue of the decoupling of Civil Aviation is ongoing, pending resolution on few sticking points, and cabinet approval. He also highlighted the need for GCAA to have a water reticulation system which is independent of NAWEC supply system. On GCAA’s NDP promise, he noted that the Authority has rebuilt the Airport complex and has increased already its operational capacity in terms of passenger movement from 326,757 to more than 477,000 in 2019 prior to COVID pandemic.
Aisha Saho of The Gambia International Airlines (GIA) said the proposed Aviation Academy would have been operational, as intended, if not for the Covid-19 Pandemic, which had stalled the process. Commenting on the Haji, she said it did not take place last year, but will take place this year, and will be subjected to COVID vaccination and a possible price tag of about D350, 000.
The Minister commented on the lack of managerial harmony between the GCAA and the GIA, which is not only unhealthy but is not to the advantage of the two institutions, which share the same premises and are operationally closely linked together. It was agreed that a meeting between GIA and GCAA be organized and coordinated by the Minister, to address all conflicting issues.
Ebrima Colley of the OIC Secretariat outlined the imminent OIC infrastructure program. He said $92 million has been secured for the 50 kilometers urban roads in the GBA, while a total of $22.5 was secured for the water project for the same area. Mr. Colley mentioned the amount of $10.5 million for the VVIP Lounge at The Banjul International Airport, and another $10 million dollars for the electricity project. The issue of accommodation for the OIC guests during the summit was raised by the participants. It was proposed that a possible option might be to hire cruise ships, citing the example of Senegal. However, it was reported that a team of OIC officials from Saudi has already ascertained that, as it stands, there was no accommodation problem for the guests in The Gambia.
On the issue of whether the setting of the conference center can accommodate more than 60 heads of states was raised. It was presented that the seating configuration will be able to accommodate as many heads of states as possible. However, it was observed that the current seating arrangement needs to be cleared with the OIC secretariat in Saudi.
During the closing of the retreat, the Minister thanked everyone for their participation especially the delegates from the various institutions. He reminded them that, as usual, by the next retreat they will be held accountable for their proposed Work Plans, especially as regards to the achievements and milestones reached.
He therefore advised that they should have their pledges on their desks, which they should always consult and refer to. On that note he declared the meeting closed.
By: Lamin Njie
Assistant Information Officer
Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure