13 November 2017

Togo: Did the Ministry Spend D800, 000 On Just 10 Air Tickets to Togo?

Investigation has revealed the Ministry of Youth Sports 'spending over D800, 000' to secure just 10 air tickets from Satguru Travel Agency.

The said air tickets were meant for a 10-man delegation of basketball players and coaches travelling to the West African Nation of Togo to attend a continental basketball championship.

The 3 by 3 basketball competition is a Federation of International Basketball Associations (FIBA) sanctioned one.

Ministry sources said Minister Henry Gomez was personally responsible for negotiating for the air tickets. The sources lamented some corrupt practices taking place at the Ministry.

The total budget said to be sent from The Gambia Basketball Association (GBA) to the Ministry was around D900, 000, which was meant to cover for air tickets, accommodation, feeding and per diems. This has left many asking the question, "how is it possible to spend D800, 000 just on 10 air tickets to Togo?"

The basketball players have since returned home and are not quite happy at the action of the ministry, which failed in their responsibility of providing allowances/per diems to them.

The players were in Togo for five days and have lamented the unfair treatment they received.

An invoice seen by this journalist from Satguru sent and received by the ministry cost the air ticket of each member of the delegation at over D80, 000.

A member of the delegation who pleaded anonymity expressed how the lack of allowances affected them while in Lome. "We had to spend from our own small pocket money we provided by ourselves."

Anywhere in the world, it is the responsibility of the government through the sports ministry to fund a national team.

Sports is described as a lucrative industry in the 21st century, but in The Gambia it is a different story. These have left the Gambian basketball players unhappy with all with the authorities for the lack of payment of neither allowance nor per diem.

The anonymous delegate said the players were left disrespected and humiliated by the action of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

"Such action will only demotivate the players and something has to be done about it. The players only travelled because they wanted to represent the country."

The issues of allowances for travelling athletes have remained a major concern when it comes to international competition.

A ministry source has also hinted at some corrupt practices at the ministry, citing an incident where the Minister was paid a per diem for five day trip of D91, 000 to Kenya in September, which he neither attended nor returned the money.

"His clearance was approved on 4th September to travel with his PS Dawda L. Ceesay, but it was only Ceesay who travelled. One Ebrima Drammeh signed the approval letter for the Secretary General," the investigation further confirmed.

When contacted on the issue, Papa Njie, President of The Gambia Basketball Association confirmed the players travelling to Togo without any pocket money.

However, the KM Mayoral aspirant confirmed giving personal financial support to the delegation. He said the National Sports Council provided the air ticket, but could not provide allowances due to what he said the Sports Council described to be 'financial constraint'.

"I sent the delegation some money while in Togo through Western Union," he shared.

Minister Gomez is currently out of town on an official mission and this journalist will contact him for his side of the story when he returns. He was contacted but he would prefer granting an interview when he returns next week.

Since his appointment, Minister Gomez has been openly condemning corruption in Gambian sports. He has promised to take Gambian Sports from 0% to 100%, but it seems that dream will take a long time to be realised.

The National Sports Council, an arm under his ministry has instituted an investigation team to probe the financial dealings of The Gambia Football Federation. The NSC has also suspended the GFF ExCo, even though the latter said it is not recognising the decision.

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