The minister of Trade, Employment and Regional Integration has disclosed that government plans to dissolve and transfer all functions of the Indigenous Businesses Advisory Services (IBAS) to the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), as part of its (government's) policy of rationalising and harmonising institutions for greater impact.
Minister Kebba Touray made this disclosure on Tuesday before Deputies at the National Assembly, while responding to a parliamentary question posed to him by the National Assembly member for Janjangbureh, Hon. Foday Jibani Manka.
Hon. Manka had sought clarification on the current services of IBAS, its effectiveness in strengthening and promoting a dynamic enterprise, culture and providing necessary ingredients, which will accelerate socio-economic growth for Gambians.
The Trade minister told the deputies that the move is in pursuance of government's new focus on the development of programmes to support and promote the development of the Micro, Small and Medium Size Enterprises (MSMEs) as they are increasingly becoming drivers of employment for many Gambians, including the youth and women.
IBAS, he explained, was created to give support and serve as an impetus to the indigenous small and medium size enterprises, which also seeks to enhance prospects for job creation, self-employment as well as contribute to the ongoing national efforts in reducing poverty.
The Trade minister further disclosed that government had extended the mandate of GIEPA through the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Act of 2010 to provide support for development of MSMEs wherever they are. He said that GIEPA is responsible for the provision of services to the MSMEs by supporting them to get access to finance as well as provide business development services to sustain their growth and development.
He disclosed that his Ministry started implementing government's decision to close IBAS following an assessment of all IBAS assets and liabilities, conducted in November 2011, which enables the development of appropriate measures for the effective execution of enterprise development services by GIEPA.
"GIEPA has been engaged for suitably qualified members of staff of IBAS to be deployed to GIEPA, which now performs the core IBAS functions. The process has already started and the selected staff are progressively being interviewed for recruitment," he stated, while noting that his Ministry has been working closely with the Personnel Management Office (PMO), the Ministry of Finance and other stakeholders to ensure suitable personnel of IBAS whose profiles may not be required in GIEPA are redeployed within the Civil Service until this is brought to its logical conclusion.
Minister Touray also told the deputies that arrangement is in place to make sure all staff are paid their full salary during this transition. He continued: "GIEPA has also started executing its mandate to provide support for enterprise development through its Enterprise Support and Development Department and a new momentum would be given to the provision of support services to the MSMEs to help them grow as well as to promote the involvement of more Gambians in the sector."
A supplementary question was asked about any tangible measures put in place to recover all the loans. Responding to that question, Minister Touray said that IBAS has not recovered all its loans and that the transition process between IBAS and GIEPA, which include the transfer of liabilities to enable GIEPA put appropriate measures to ensure these loans are recovered is on.