The general manager of the Independence Stadium and Friendship Hotel (ISFH), Thursday pleaded with the government of The Gambia to assist them with a bailout package to be able to build the foundation for revenue generation by rehabilitating the Friendship Hotel and improve the overall standard of the Independence Stadium.
Ebou Faye made this appeal while presenting the institution's annual activity reports and audited financial statements for the years ended 31st December 2010 and 2011 respectively, before the Joint Session of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprise Committee (PAC/PEC) of the National Assembly.
He explained that the management continues to renovate the hotel at a low scale based on the availability of funds. However, he said funding is needed to bring back the hotel to an acceptable standard of a 2-star hotel that would attract more visitors, and also the Independence Stadium that has never undergone major refurbishment since construction in 1983.
He said that the ISFH was built by the Chinese government in 1983 and completed in 1984 as a grant to the government of The Gambia, with the main objectives of accommodating the growing needs for national and international sporting activities of all generations, provide boarding and lodging facilities of those in the sports fraternity, youth groups and tourists, as well hosting conferences, workshops, seminars, and other social activities in the hotel.
Faye also told the Committee that the Independence Stadium is the only sporting facility in The Gambia that conforms to FIFA and IOC international standards, and has a main bowl (football field) and athletics running track for local and international championship within the complex.
He explained that the Friendship Hotel has 78 rooms, including one main dining hall and kitchen, outside bar, restaurant and a swimming pool, tennis, basketball, handball and volleyball courts. He said out of the 78 rooms, 37 have air conditioners, while 41 have fans. He added that the occupancy rate of the rooms has dropped significantly as a result of the deteriorating state of the old age of fixtures and fitting within the rooms.
Faye explained that the ISFH revenue generation is dependent on the activities and events hosted within the complex, noting that some of the activities are local programmes while the others are international events. Among them, he said, are football gate takings, musical concerts, inter-house athletics, Secondary School Sports, Workers Day Sports, Gymnasium, and Billboard Advertisement among others.
According to him, billboard advertisement within the main bowl complex was a major source of revenue generating a total amount of D1, 005, 000 in 2010. "Advertisement space was marketed to the private sector companies and public enterprise and the response was satisfactory. The institutions designed their promotions information on the billboards on their own cost while the stadium charged an annual fixed fee based on the dimension of the billboard," he said.
Gambia For Gold impact
Faye told the Committee that the decision by the Ministry of Youth and Sports to take away the billboard advertisement and allocating it to the Gambia For Gold immensely affected the revenue generation of the stadium during the period under review, as a result, the stadium only generated D552, 000 in 2011. He said the Gambia for Gold was supposed to pay over D1.5M but paid only D75, 000, which is far below what they used to generate when the billboard advertisement was under the ISFH.
Faye Continued: "Maintenance has become management's greatest challenge in keeping the ageing fixtures and fittings at the stadium as well as maintaining the football ground in good working conditions of acceptable standards while struggling to generate revenue. The cost of maintenance has therefore taken a substantial amount of the revenue generated over the period."
He further stated that, in maintaining compliance with CAF/FIFA stadium regulations, management continues to endeavour to maintain the facility to the required standards, noting that in the year under review, the ISFH management received funding from the Ministry of Youth and Sports for the rehabilitation of the main bowl football field to the tune of D738, 000 and an additional D17, 200, 000 for the installation of the state-of-the-art fluidelight, with the rehabilitation of the electrical distribution network and its related accessories. He informed the Committee that the contract was awarded to Dabani Electrical Enterprise.
"The management continues to renovate the Hotel at a low scale based on the availability of funds. However, funding is needed to bring back the hotel to an acceptable standard of a 2-star hotel that would attract the more visitors. Both management and Ministry of Youth and Sports are trying to work out ways of attracting partners for the rehabilitation of the hotel in a joint venture and this process is still ongoing," he added.
Faye also highlighted that the Nawec monthly bills are high, reaching over D120, 000, thus creating high pressure on ISFH revenue, and the unsustainability of the management's total liabilities ofD7, 160, 820.30 with Banks, Nawec, Social Security, Gamtel, and Income Tax.
Faye informed the Committee that ISFH has never undergone any major rehabilitation or maintenance from its inception to 2010 and this greatly affects the standard of the facilities and services offered to the public. "There is the need for general rehabilitation of the fixtures, fittings, as well as the electricity system to keep pace with the current standards within the industry," he said.
Faye said that the audited financial statement of the ISFH 2010 indicated that the Youth and Sports Ministry's liability with the ISFH is D943, 293.00, of which D328, 894.00 was paid to Nawec. He noted that the outstanding balance of the liabilities is D614, 345.00. "The MoYS has agreed to pay D80, 000 monthly to the arrears of the ISFH to Nawec to offset their liabilities," he added.
Faye revealed that the Gambia Football Association (GFA) has outstanding liabilities of D445, 006.00 with the Independence Stadium and Friendship Hotel, according to the audited financial statement 2010.
"The financial subvention of the ISFH in 2011 is D981, 000, which is a reduction of the amount allocated in 2010 (D1, 034, 400). The amount was unable to meet the salaries neither the maintenance of the deplorable condition of ISFH," Faye lamented, while appealing for an increase of subvention for the next three years to enable the ISFH to build the foundation of revenue generation to be financially independent.
Lamin K. Barrow, a compliance officer at Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA), said the Independence Stadium and Friendship Hotel (ISFH) was found to be non-compliant with the Public Procurement Act and Regulation during the year under review.
The PAC/PEC Committee then raised questions, concerns, recommendations, and suggestions, which were responded to by the ISFH officials before the reports were adopted.
Sitting continues today, Monday, 26th November 2012.