Gambia: Debts Owed to Social Security Threaten Members' Fund

More than a billion dalasis owed to the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation by public institutions has threatened its ability to pay members of the Provident Fund.

This was indicated by the Managing Director of the Corporation, Mr Muhammed Manjang, while presenting their report to the Public Enterprise Committee at the National Assembly on Monday, 20th May 2019.

In the provident fund as at 2017, Manjang revealed that the accumulated losses were about D1.6 billion which is about 45% of the total fund members' assets.

"If we don't receive this money, then the members of the provident fund will be affected to the extent of losing up to 40% of their money with us," he said.

Officials of SSHFC said the difficulty has been getting their debtors pay up the loans they owe them, saying some of them are reluctant to pay back, others are unable to pay and some don't even exist anymore. However, they said they have entered into agreement with some of their debtors while others are not yielding in the positive.

Muhammed Manjang, said the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC), the biggest debtor among many enterprises, is owing the financial corporation eight hundred and ninety-two million dalasis (D892m).

According to him, they are negotiating with the finance ministry who wants to take over the loans of NAWEC but they are proposing to pay without interest.

"But at the same time, we are in court with NAWEC to try to recover this amount from them," he said.

Another establishment that owes SSHFC is GRTS, who apparently, Manjang said, are disputing this as they thought the loan was a gift from government.

"But we have an arrangement with them and really with GRTS the negotiation has almost come to a standstill. But I think the ministry is also trying to get involved in the GRTS issue. But if we fail to make progress, the only resort we will have is the courts. But that's a last resort."

Manjang said the Gambia Government owes them D414 million in two different loans, one for D234 million and the other for D180 million. He said for the D234 million, they had not made any progress because the ministry of finance is not willing to talk about it.

Manjang said Gambia International Airlines owes them D16.2 million, Kanilai Group International owes them D31 million and GCCA owes them about D95 million; that they have an MoU with them but that they have failed to honour it.

The chair of the select committee, Hon. Halifa Sallah said the whole purpose of their exercise is to eradicate the threat to the members' benefits, and they want to be guided on how they can give the corporation the support it needed.

Nonetheless, Manjang said: "We mentioned this to various organizations, the World Bank, the IMF to come to our intervention to interfere for government to repay these loans or to go after these state owned enterprises for them to pay us these loans. And these are the main cause regarding the national provident fund; that's why you see a deficit of over D1.6 billion."

Manjang added that other parties who we signed an MoU with them defaulted and they have engaged their lawyer on the issues, thus, they are waiting for advice from their solicitor to take their next step.

He said Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) is honouring their obligation by repaying loans accordingly which is expected to finish in the middle of this year. Gamcel/ Gamtel, who were part of the MoU signed between them, are also fulfilling the agreement by repaying the loan accordingly.

Hon. Sallah said they are trying to get from them the key issues that they want to be addressed and he believed that the National Assembly is more effective than the World Bank or the IMF.

"This is the problem that some of these industries have experienced, they had a problem with taxes; instead of coming to the National Assembly to argue their case they are writing to their foreign government... that is not how government work," he said.

Sallah said they are trying at the final phase to accompany Social Security to move into a new phase to avoid the governance problem where somebody interferes with what is in the jurisdiction of the board that you cannot be forced to go and invest.

Meanwhile, PEC has adopted the activity reports and financial statements during the period under review 2016 and 2017 of the social security, after thorough scrutiny and review. Meanwhile SSHFC is awaiting the recommendations of the National Assembly on the recovery of their debts.

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