By Saikou Suwareh Jabai
The members of the Public Accounts Committee and Public Enterprises Committee (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly, on 1 November, 2016, commenced a nationwide field visit to World Bank funded project sites.
The delegation, led by the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, first started with the Gambia ACE Submarine Cable System in Brusubi and later visited the Single Window Business Registration at the Ministry of Justice before finally stopping at the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS) at the Accountant General’s Department, Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs in Banjul.
Speaking at the ACE project office, Dodou Kebbeh, the Clerk of the National Assembly, said it is the first of a series of engagements that they will be having during the course of the site visits to World Bank funded sites. He highlighted the tremendous achievements registered by the PAC/PEC, adding that it has been recognised by World Bank. He said the Bank assigned the Assembly to visit their funded project sites and find out how much impact they are making as part of the project objectives.
He said this is a pilot project and if it is successfully implemented, the Bank may apply it to other African countries. While noting that the activity will better improve their strategies to ensure effectiveness, he said the World Bank hired a consultant who will later file and send a report of the sites visited to the Bank.
He finally thanked the members for their commitment to the execution of the proposals of the Office of the Clerk.
The Consultant, Mr. Omar Ousman Jobe, commended Gamtel for their kind reception despite the short notice. He said it is important for the PAC/PEC to visit the sites and obtain information of the operations of the sites.
While describing it as a step in the right direction, he described oversight duties like such as crucial.
The Project Coordinator of the ACE Submarine Cable System, Mr. Omoshola Joiner, welcomed the PAC/PEC members to the landing station of the cable. Mr. Joiner, who works with the West African Regional Communication Infrastructure Project (WARCIP), said his institution is tasked with the responsibly of implementing the project.
He said the project is funded by the World Bank at a tune of 35 million dollars and that 25 million of the budget was spent on the facilitation of the cable.
He said the ACE cable eases and enhances international communication and fast internet usage. He added that it is an opportunity that strengthens the private telecom sector partnership with the Government of the Gambia.
Inaugurated in The Gambia on 19th December 2012, he said the cable brought a liberalized gateway for reliable, cheaper and abundant internet bandwidth.
The Managing Director of Gamtel, Mr. Sanyang, said Gambia was filing international traffic through satellite connection and few years later, they discovered that the development of the country badly needed ICT as a foundation stone to be able to improve on communication correspondences. As a result, he added, that in 2008, Gamtel came across the opportunity when they were approached by the organizers of the consortium.
He said the ACE is a consortium of countries along the Atlantic Ocean and that since its inception, the cable has improved the internet and communication services in the Gambia. He said the company faced challenges in paying to become a consortium member and thus government sought funding from the World Bank.
He said the World Bank funded the project in the spirit of public private partnership, the Bank conditioned that the private sector owns 51% of the total capacity and that the remaining is shared between Gamtel and Gamcel.
In wrapping-up the visit to the ACE cable, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Honorable Fatou Mbaye, said the visit availed them the chance to see the operations of the ACE cable and its significance. She thanked Gamtel for their efforts to ensure that the Gambia becomes a member of the consortium despite its expensiveness. She finally described it as a worthy spending and commended the officials at the station for the reception.
A detailed report of the visit in Single Window Business Registration and the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS) at the Accountant General’s Department will be published in our subsequent editions.