Members of the Public Accounts and Public Enterprise (PAC/PEC) Committee of the National Assembly Tuesday considered and adopted the annual activity report and audited financial statements of the Gambia Postal Services Corporation (Gampost) for the year ended 31st December 2011 at the National Assembly Chambers in Banjul.
Presenting the report before the Committee, Phoday M. Jaiteh, officer-in-charge of Gampost, said the institution is undergoing a profound process of transformation. He also said the communication market has experienced dramatic evolution following the development of digital technology driven by rising standards of living and social sophistication in pursuit of modernisation, quality service and financial viability."Gampost continues to invest in our key strength which is the extensive branch network to improve service quality and brand image," he further remarked.
Jaiteh told the Committee that all the existing 11 office structures were refurbished, and that three new offices were inaugurated in Bwiam, Brusubi, and Wassu in 2011 and 2012 respectively.
His added: "As part of our operational strategy, we plan to accord face-lifts to Farafenni and Basse, and refurbish Serrekunda Branch. We will add two more outlets to the office networkin Bansang and Brikama-ba."
Diversification and innovation
Jaiteh informed the Committee that as information and communication technology continues to provide instant communication which creates electronic substitutes to physical mail, diversification is imperative for long-term survival in the postal industry.
Commenting on bilateral agreements, he said the development of postal services and accessibility to financial services, and in particular money transfer between African Postal Administrations, are the primary objectives of the ongoing Universal Postal Union (UPU) and Pan-African Postal Union (PAPU) regional projects. "Gambia Postal Services Corporation and SN La Post Du Senegal signed a bilateral agreement on 1st October 2010 to enable the two parties put in place a common money transfer service under the 'International Express Money Order' (IEMO) Label," he revealed.
He continued: "Considering the magnitude of the Senegalese population in The Gambia, the historic, linguistic, economic and socio-cultural bonds that exist between the Republic of Senegal and the sister Republic of The Gambia, this service certainly will improve the economic and social conditions of the two people." Jaiteh also revealed that there are plans to replicate the same initiative in other countries in the sub-region such as Guinea Conakry, Mali and Mauritania.
Money transfer services, financial inclusion
The Gampost boss said in addition to Western Union and Domestic Money Transfer (DMT) in which Gampost is the leader in the market, they continue to add value to existing services and plan to introduce new services to satisfy customer expectations. He averred that Gampost financial services complement government's policy to ensure financial inclusion through enabling access to remittance and payment services and savings accounts for rural women and farmers.
"Gampost operates in regions and areas where the profit-oriented commercial banks would not venture, such as Bwiam, Kerewan, Kaur, Wassu, and Janjangbureh. However, as part of the broader government Civil Service framework, Gampost is there to provide public services to the people," Jaiteh added.
Private public partnership
He told the PAC/PEC members that the incursion of private courier operators into their traditional mail service market has contributed to the development of the Express Mail Service (EMS). He revealed that preliminary discussions with DHL are ongoing with the aim of signing a win-win MOU to airlift their outbound express mails.
Virtual Private Network
Jaiteh informed the PAC/PEC that 12 of the 14 branches have already been connected to the world-wide-web, adding that their strategy is to install a VPN and eventually a software platform to facilitate fast and reliable money transfer service to their customers, communities, the public and the agents.
Jaiteh said: "Lack of a postal address system continues to present difficulties in mail delivery service. It is our plan to continue engaging stakeholders, other players in the industry and UPU through the Quality of Service Fund (QSF) to map out and implement a postal code system for the country."
On his part, Samba Ceesay, the acting accountant at Gampost, said the institution's turnover in 2011 was D21, 402, 682 compared to D20, 714, 359 in 2010.
External Auditor's observation
External Auditors of AA & CO in their management letter observed among other things that there was no CCTV coverage at the cash and teller area and the savings bank software installed is not working adequately as balances sitting on accounts are not inline with the customer's passbooks, although periodic maintenance fees are paid to the suppliers of the software.
The auditors also noted that amounts of up to D200, 000 are being physically moved from one location to another by motorbike riders, with money put in plastic bags without security personnel escort. They further observed a tax liability of D5, 247, 389 which is yet to be paid to the tax authorities over the years.
In response to some of the issues observed, management said some payments have been made towards the tax liability, and that Gampost also intends to expand CCTV coverage in the future.
Lamin K. Barrow, a compliance officer from the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA), said Gampost was found to be fully compliant with Public Procurement Act and Regulation.
Members then raised questions, comments, concerns, recommendations and suggestions, which were responded to by Gampost officials before the report was finally adopted.