The director of Finance at the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) Thursday revealed that the Corporation's surplus transferred to members' fund decreased to D18, 319, 000 in 2011 compared to D59, 295, 000 in 2010.
Abdoulie Cham made this disclosure while presenting the SSHFC audited financial report before the Joint Session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committee (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly at the National Assembly Chambers in Banjul. He further disclosed that the total equity and liabilities on consolidated net assets for the year 2011 was D4, 814, 952 compared to D4, 491, 223 in 2010.
Delivering his annual activity report, Edward Graham, the managing director of SSHFC, said that shelter delivery remains a key development aspect of the Corporation's programme, adding that they continue to provide assistance to all main hospitals namely: RVTH, Serrekunda Hospital, AFPRC Hospital, Bansang Hospital and Sulayman JukungGeneral Hospital. He told the Committee that they have adopted a ward in each of these hospitals, for which they procure vital needs in consultation with the administrators.
"Apart from our intervention in the main referral hospitals, we sometimes support financially weak parents to evacuate their sick children to Dakar for further medical treatment where the facilities do not exist here in The Gambia," he added.
MD Graham noted that Operation Save a Baby, the brainchild of the First Lady, Madam Zainab Yahya Jammeh, is also a beneficiary of the intervention, whilst they provide baby items and cash gift to a mother who newly delivered, which gives some assurance for a good beginning on the first day of the year.
He recalled that last year, they outlined some plans for their involvement in the Agriculture sector as they were encouraged by President Jammeh's call for Gambians to go back to the land in order to feed themselves and also derive other economic benefits. He said they are in partnership with Njaba Kunda, and have together cultivated three and half hectares of coose.
"Although due to the crop failure last year, our harvest was not as expected. We have however stored it in a safe place awaiting this year's harvest for a meaningful distribution to the needy. As a result of the crop failure, we could not harvest from the Jambour farm," he further stated. He said they plan to engage more communities to take up farming seriously, and that the engagement would be in the form of a partnership where they provide selected community farms with fertilizer and some funding while the community provides the labour.
Hon. Fatou Mbye, the deputy speaker of the National Assembly, who chaired the session, raised concerns over how SSHFC intends to help low earners to secure a plot of land. Hon. Lamin Kebba Jammeh, NAM for Illiassa, asked about the investment rationale for the huge amounts in Ocean Bay, noting that the hotel has never returned a profit in all the operations to SSHFC by way of dividend.
Hon. Abdoulie Saine, NAM for Banjul Central, noted that billions of dalasi loans were given out whereas SSHFC is taking loans from the banks. He then asked why they are taking loans and at the same time giving out loans. Hon. Njie Darboe, NAM for Jarra West, asked how much money was spent on the farm and fertilizers and how many communities they engaged with in that year's farming [season].
Hon. Mam Cherno Jallow, NAM for Upper Niumi, requested for the submission of the breakdown of donations SSHFC did in the health and agriculture sectors as well as on religion, noting that huge bundles of money went to these sectors. Hon. Buba Ayi Sanneh, NAM for Kombo Central, revealed that SSHFC have demolished houses, cut down cashew trees and have not compensated the owners. He asked what powers does the SSHFC have to acquire these lands.
Hon. Lamin Jadama, NAM for Niamina West, sought clarifications on the non-appearance of returns on investments. He decried the fact that many of the employees are going home with between less than 1% and 10% of their gross monthly emoluments due to loans deductions and credit unions allotments.He added that such a situation is not healthy for both the employees and the SSHFC.
Other speakers included Hon. Netty Baldeh, NAM for Tumana; Hon. Bafaye Saidykhan, NAM for Jarra East; Hon. Babou Gaye Sonko, nominated member; Hon. Alagie Sillah, NAM for Banjul North; Hon. Foday Jibani Manka, NAM for Jangjanbureh; Alhagie TSA Njie, subject matter specialist and Babucarr Sankareh, the auditor general who also raised critical observations, comments and questions to the SSHFC team.
Responding to some of the questions and concerns raised, MD Graham told the Committee that the housing fund was not for only low income earners but for all earners. "We do not only give them lands but with loans to build and in other areas such as Brusubi Estate they use different strategy," he stated.
He explained that the housing fund is not the same with the funds of the members of the Housing Finance Corporation adding that the funds for SSHFC is for the pensions and workers while the housing funds go for loans with interests.
Ibraima Sanyang, a senior compliance officer at the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA), revealed that SSHFC was found to be fully compliant with the Public Procurement Act. The Joint Session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprises Committee then unanimously adopted the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation report for the year 31st December 2011.