National Assembly members Monday enacted the bill entitled "An Act to provide for the Repeal of The Gambia Public Transport Corporation (GPTC) Act 1976", at an extra-ordinary session convened at the National Assembly Chambers in Banjul.
The objective of the bill is to repeal the Enabling Act of the GPTC and thus, pave the way for winding down the Corporation and in the process, cut losses that have been accruing to the public purse.
Before the laying of the bill before members, the speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Abdoulie Bojang, explained that the extra-ordinary session was summoned upon receipt of a statutory request from the president of the Republic of The Gambia, as per the powers vested on him under Section 98 (1) (a) (i) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic which reads, 'Subject to Section 97, sittings of the National Assembly shall be at such time as the National Assembly shall appoint: provide that -(a) the speaker shall summon a sitting of the National Assembly - (i) when requested to do so by the President'.
He said the meeting was meant to consider a very urgent matter, with regards to the Repeal of the Gambia Public Transport Corporation Act, (Cap. 70.02, Laws of The Gambia 2009) and for connected matters. "I do hope members from both sides of the house will understand the reason for the short notice given, especially since it is also within the Standing Order 26 (q). Also Hon. Members, I hope that the Bill, not being controversial, will be dealt with as soon as possible but of course without compromising in anyway the public interest this bill deserves," Hon. Bojang said.
Laying the Bill, Francis Liti Mboge, the minister of Works, Construction, and Infrastructure , said the creation of the Gambia Public Transport Corporation in 1976 facilitated the provision of public transport services as well as a school bus service in the country, adding that the scheduled bus services were funded from internally generated funds while school bus service was maintained through an annual subvention from Government.
"In the decade of the 1990s, however, the Corporation slid into serious financial and operational difficulties. The bus fleet was aging, revenue earnings declined continuously while a lack of investment aggravated the situation," Minister Mboge added.
He continued: "A business entity must either maximise revenue or cut costs to remain solvent. With GPTC, neither option was possible. The decision was therefore made to disband the Corporation. Having closed an old chapter, it is only prudent that we must look to the not distant future for realising our dreams with regard to public transport. It is important to note in this regard that government is ever conscious of its commitment to provide public transport for the socio-economic development of this country.
Due consideration has been given to the interests of the employees. Although the Corporation has been dysfunctional for a considerable period, salaries and wages to employees have been paid consistently. It is envisaged that through a collective bargaining mechanism, the employees would be given a reasonable severance package."
Minister Mboge also informed the Committee that plans are therefore afoot for the revival of this mode of transport inline with the objectives of the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Development (PAGE).
Seconding the motion, Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the Majority leader and NAM for Serrekunda East, thanked the government through the minister for preparing the bill, adding that the National Assembly members have high concern over the affairs of GPTC and staff.
He described the bill as non-controversial, as it demonstrates government's commitment to provide a viable public transport for the people. He said the repeal of the Act is very timely and highly welcome, taking into consideration the hurdle that commuters go through to get transport.
Hon. Jatta further stated that they look forward to seeing a public transport system that will serve the public interest effectively and efficiently. On his part, Hon. Netty Baldeh, member for Tumana constituency, joined the Majority leader in describing the bill as non-controversial, adding that it is timely and apt.
Hon. Alhaji Sillah, NAM for Banjul North, called for a holistic study to look at the players on the ground to ensure an efficient and effective public transport system. Hon. Fatou Mbye, deputy speaker of the National Assembly, also called for a study to be conducted to ensure that next time the public transport will be more competent and reliable.