Gambia: FSQA Board Chairman Says Management Dismissed Staff

The board chairperson of the Food Safety and Quality Authority (FSQA), has on Tuesday said they were not consulted by the management of his institution in the suspensions and dismissals of their staff.

Badara Loum remarked, "The dismissal and the suspension were not done in consultation with the board. It was the management that took the decision - as a management decision."

"So, I will refer you to management to find out from them why they took those steps. But as a chairman of the board, I can tell you that the board was not involved... .., we did not have consultation with management to take the steps that were taken," he said.

He said this is a new board that was appointed in 2019, adding the crisis in Food Safety has persisted even before their board was appointed."

He added that even though they inherited the problem from the previous board that does not absolve them of the responsibility to solve the matter.

He further explained, "When the petition was made, we as a board sat over it and we had many meetings, and the decision was that 'let us go by the rules of the Authority and the Food Safety Act'. The service rules have provisions for the constitution of a commission of inquiry in case there is serious matter that faces the authority."

He said a committee consisting people from Labour, Office of the vice President, PMO and Ombudsman was constituted.

He continued: "They did their investigations and then came-up with their recommendations. But as a board we sat over it, discussed and did our consultation with the oversight body, which is the office of the vice President."

According to Loum, they later forwarded the recommendations to the management which was to chart a way forward, and then consult the board.

He said the board was informed through a letter written to somebody that some of the staff have been terminated, some dismissed and some suspended by the management.

"To make it clear for the record, these dismissals and suspensions were not done in consultation with the board," he said.

Asked who is mandated by the FSQA Service Rules to sack staff, he replied: "When there is an issue of disciplinary action being taken, the management would recommend to the board that Mr xyz has done xyz and we are recommending you take this decision. If the person is on category 2 which is a senior position, then the board would be involved in taking disciplinary action against the person. If the person is a junior staff (that is category 3), then the management can take disciplinary action without referring it to the board."

The former staff of the Authority, who walked into the Foroyaa office on Sunday, produced a letter written to them by the management.

The letter said: "It is the view of management that your attitude and behaviour within the office and outside, and your open disrespect for senior management and the Authority's Rules and Regulations, Clause 6.1.1 (9) of the General Orders (GO) Code of Conduct, and spreading false information that has spread nationally and internationally and brought disrepute to the Authority makes your continued retention untenable and not conducive to restoring a professional and harmonious environment at the Authority."

According to the letter, further to their involvement in the writing and dissemination of a petition against the Authority's Director General, on 7th October 2019, the Board of Directors of the aforesaid body acting on powers of the Authority's service rules, clause 718 set up an independent investigation which found the malicious allegations contained in the petition to be false.

"The management acting on the instructions of the Vice President (line Ministry), following several consultative correspondences between the Ministry and the Board of Directors to take necessary administrative steps to address the situation, has hereby taken the decision to dismiss you from your position with immediate effect in line with clause 0303 (I) of the FSQA Service Rules, which provides thus, 'the authority reserves the right to dismiss any employee for serious misconduct undermining the confidence of your employer' and /or the image of your employer'."

The dismissal letter added that the further dissemination of what the Authority called the dissemination of false information on the internet and their participation in an 'illegal' press conference without permission of the management held at the FSQA premises on the 15th January 2020, is contrary to clause 0703 of the Food Safety and Quality Service Rules. It added that the employees were in violation of section 0708, on internal correspondences, of the Authority's Service Rules.

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