On Thursday, Gambia’s first elected mayoress Rohey Malick Lowe of the Banjul City Council has faced the media to explain her successes and challenges in her first hundred days in office.
Below is her entire press statement:
Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim,
CEO, Councilors, City Staff members, members of the Press, distinguished guests, and general public: welcome to this gathering!
With all protocols respectfully observed, I must begin by sharing that it is a great honor for me today to stand here as your Mayor.
Today is the 100th day of my administration as Banjul’s Mayoress.
When I decided to run for the position under the banner of the United Democratic Party, I got the opportunity to interact with many great Banjulians, and many of you invited me into your homes and shared with me your hopes, but also your concerns. These many interactions gave me the energy necessary to take on the challenge to work for the betterment of all Banjulians, not just a few, and to take the steps necessary to revitalize our great City of Banjul. A City-island with a long and rich history in which live people, who have faced a lot of obstacles along the decades of fiscal and administrative mis-managements.
Armed with the desire to help the great people of Banjul, I ran for the position and looked for your support, because I knew I had the right vision, temperament and leadership skills to reach my objectives, our objectives to improve Banjul and the lives of its inhabitants. After you manifested your trust by voting for me, I humbly but enthusiastically accepted the honor.
When I assumed my position as your Mayoress, a hundred days ago, I began the process of assessing the fiscal and administrative realities of our great City. In front of what I found, the City Council and I established a taskforce which has a mission to assess the City’s administrative and financial situation and recommend measures needed for a better governance of the City.
The taskforce has not yet completed its final assessment, but its final report is expected next week. I deplore not having had the opportunity to benefit from a smooth transition process with the previous administration. This absence of transition further convinced me to begin my tenure with a professional assessment of the administrative and most importantly financial situations as they were when I walked into my new public role.
I can already share with you that my team and I have already identified several issues that stand in the way for our city to function effectively. This includes, but is not limited to:
• A debt of D8 million owed to several banks and suppliers with interests and overdraft charges accruing.
• Unexplained expenditures without supporting documents worth over D1.6 million in 2017 alone.
• Lack of payment to employees’ retirement benefits and pensions liabilities in the amount of D3million.
• Payment of salaries to about 150 non- or former employees.
• Unjustified daily and monthly allowance of fuel paid to senior managers.
• Non-payment of operational license by a number of stores doing business in our City.
• For the past years, the Council has been relying on generators rather than on the NAWEC electrical grid due to non-payments.
• Lack of archive with appropriate storing of the administrative paper work that is necessary for the Council to function and that should make for a transparent Council.
The discovery of these issues was shocking, to say the least. They gave me the courage necessary to conduct the City’s business differently, for a more transparent, fiscal and administrative path. As such, I and the Council have work together to adopt the measures needed to begin our path to recovery. We have taken the administrative steps to:
• Implement a transparent record keeping system that is efficiently recording the functioning of the City Council.
• In regards to the inherited debts to several banks, we have negotiated a path forward. We are currently doing the City’s business using only one bank, which limits waste and unnecessary fees.
• We have stopped all payrolls to non-active employees and stopped allowance payment to Directors for sitting in a general Council meeting.
• The Council has reconnected with NAWEC for its electrical supplies, ending costly generator use.
• We are now using a coupon system instead of cash purchasing of fuel for Council vehicles to eliminate waste and fraud. As a result, our fuel budget has gone down drastically.
• A new policy has been put in place to ensure that loans eventually and exceptionally given to staff members are kept up-to-date and monitored for the application of due interest, and to ensure repayment.
• Lastly, we are taking serious measures to ensure that anyone who is doing business in our city is expected to pay for their license and rent to the City. Failure to do so will result in a hefty fine or the closure of the business.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as you can see my first months in office have been primarily centered on the recovery and restructuring of our mayoral institution. I have been animated by my determination to eliminate waste and the abuse of our finances, and get rid of our debts.
These have been acting like cancers; they have plagued the Council for decades, leaving the City nearly bankrupt. This situation prevented the city from doing its business properly, which is to serve Banjulians with the good governance they deserve so that the city can meet its duties and obligations towards them.
When I took the oath of office, I knew that I needed to take decisive steps, however unpopular, to turn our City around. Thousands of Banjulians are counting on me to chart a different course and to bring a much needed development to our great City. That is why the Council and I are working on innovative strategies to maximize our revenue in order to effectively address the many needs of our City. As we are in the course of recovery, it is now important to highlight our projects to improve the lives of Banjulians.
• Infrastructural Development: As Banjulians we know and have seen a number of poor and dilapidated road conditions around our neighborhoods, and commercial areas leading to the ports. As such we have the commitment and support of President Barrow and his government for the development of Banjul. We are engaged in a robust consultation with relevant stakeholders such as the GPA, NRA, and GAMWORKS for the reconstruction of Hill Street, Orange Street, Anglesea Street, Cameroun Street, Picton Street, Leman Street, Wellington Street and Blanc Street just to name a few. Funds have been committed for the total rehabilitation of our sewage and drainage systems along with our roads.
- Waste and Sanitation: We are due to receive garbage and sanitation trucks that have already been shipped from Nanning, China. Thanks to our partnerships with UNICEF and GPA, we are due to receive 3,000 garbage bins, 1,500 of these bins are due to arrive in the next 4 weeks, to ensure that all garbage are placed in secured bins, which should reduce insects that brings illnesses. The distribution of these bins will be in phases beginning at Banjul North. In the next couple of months, Banjulians should expect to have at least one garbage bin in their compound at no cost to them. This is in line with my campaign promise. I will do everything I can to make the environment of Banjul healthy and robust, a good place to live in, and a better livable conditions, for the benefit of both individual citizens and commercial flows.
- Our Information Management System, which we have in partnership with GAMTEL, will ensure a timely system of adequate information and communication flows that makes for a better and timelier sharing of knowledge and transparency.
- Albert Market Toilets: It is no secret that the toilets at the Albert Market have been in deplorable and unhygienic conditions. To address and improve such conditions, the Council—under my leadership—has engaged and mobilized key partners for the building of new and modern toilets. We therefore want to take this opportunity to thank our supporters and collaborators in this endeavor:
- The Chinese Embassy and MSY-BTP under the leadership of Serigne Jamil Sey. The Chinese have purchased the construction materials and are expected to arrive in the country soon so that we can begin work immediately after the end of the rainy season.
- We have also entered into an MOU with the SIFAX Company for the construction of an additional container terminal at bond road. In a similar vein, we have secured the commitment of investors to dredge the ring canal. As I continue to lead the Council, we are committed to construct a concrete floor throughout the entire length of the canal.
- Construction of the New Council Complex: To begin the new council office complex, we have conducted much needed cleaning services, remodeling of the toilets, and mechanical units at Crab Island School premises. As a result, construction of the complex is in progress. Banjulians will have the opportunity to go directly to a record office. Where they can go freely to get access to the City’s public records without having to see the Mayor, if they choose to do so, all in an effort for a greater transparency.
These projects make my general infrastructure plan to rehabilitate the City—for now. They should bring us to a more economically viable position, ready to take advantage of any and all opportunities for quality growth for all Banjulians.
Talking about the people of Banjul… One of the greatest challenges we face as a City, and as a nation, is to decide how we engage with, and empower our youths and women in the developmental process I propose.
As I campaigned throughout the City, and talked to many Banjulians, young and old, many expressed the need to give to the youths the chance to benefit from good educational opportunities to acquire skills that will help them get a job in what should be a booming economy in constant process of transformation.
That’s why for every project and agreement made by the City, at least 20% of the jobs will go towards the young people of Banjul. In fact, with the construction of the container terminal, the city has entered, under my leadership; into an agreement according to which 20% of the jobs created by that construction will be reserved for Banjulians youths. This should bring in an estimated 200 jobs for the youths in our City. While I believed in the importance of employing our youths, it is equally important that we also invest in their educational future, which gives them the skills necessary for their development and the realization of their dreams.
- I therefore wish to take this opportunity to announce that part of the defunct Crab Island School will be transformed into a technical training school that will be managed by the city in conjunction with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education.
• We will be adding a block for science and technology at the Garba Jahumpa Upper Basic School. The construction of a modern science block at the school will give students a chance to engage in a rigorous science and technology curriculum, so that they can one day become the scientists and technology leaders our Gambian society needs.
Ladies and Gentlemen, as the first female Mayor of this Great City, I am constantly reminded, just by talking with Banjulians that my historic win was in great part thanks to girls’ and women’s votes. These votes showed nothing less that we—women—deserve a seat at the table as well.
For I represent the dreams and hopes of many girls and women in this country. I am conscious of that. This gives me the courage to fight for the betterment of all Banjulians especially women and girls, who have often been left behind when development projects have been designed. To help remedy this situation, in consultation with the Banjul women, I created the Women and Girls Empowerment Initiative putting my own resources as seed money, this is a program geared towards helping women become more economically self-sufficient by:
• Providing eligible women with Credit and saving opportunities for their businesses, this will be coordinated by Isatou Njie, Macoumba Sanneh, Alagie Jah, Ngange Cham, Mbye Lowe and Guaranty Trust Bank.
- Providing the training, coaching and mentoring of women to become entrepreneurs and effective leaders.
- Developing a platform for marketing, joint ventures, partnership and networking for women by women.
- Providing financial services to young women through education sponsorships for girls.
These initiatives will bring about a much-needed plan for the human development of our great City. My primary focus on youths and women has been a primary campaign promise, a promise I intend to keep for it is vital for the vision and future development of our City, and for the well being of the entire community. When women are given the opportunity to be entrepreneurial, the entire society benefits from it, including men…. Women are the cement of families…
Since I took office, I received an overwhelming support from both the private and public sectors, locally and internationally. This support is essential in my endeavors to give Banjul a much-needed facelift.
At this point, I would like to extend my gratitude for all of our collaborators, and donors of matching funds that help the City meet its challenges and reach its future. I say thank you to:
• President Barrow and The First Lady of The Republic
• Areski International
• Gambia Milling Company
• Chinese Embassy
• National Road Authority
• Gambia Transport Union under the leadership of Omar Ceesay
• National Disaster Management Agency
• All Security Services and CDS Masanneh Kinteh
• The Indian Community
• Waa Keur Rohey and team Rohey Malick Lowe
Distinguished guests, the task before us is huge but surmountable, if we all join forces and work together for the sole interest of Banjul, we will be successful in transforming the City.
We will be completing a strategic plan in the very near future. It lays out the road map to achieve our set of objectives to make a healthy and robust City that is fiscally and administratively solid. During my campaign, I made a promise that my salary will go towards the needy and deserving people of Banjul. In keeping with this promise, my salary thus far has aided in the treatment of a fire victim and the medical treatment of a three Banjulians patients who are undergoing treatment in Dakar. Now schools has open my focus is to use my salary towards the funding of education for children whose parents can’t afford to pay for.
I stand here today with great pride that after 100 days, the Council members and I have managed to put the City onto a more fiscally and administratively responsible path towards good governance. We have been able to do this thanks to the forging of consensus-based partnerships. I wish to also take this opportunity to thank the members of my staff, the Councilors, the Department Heads and all the City Employees, the respective taskforce members, and to our friends in the business, labor, nonprofit and other communities, my supporters and friends in the Diaspora, the government of The Gambia and our development partners, who have spent countless hours with us in hearings and negotiations. Lastly and most importantly, I am grateful for the great resilience of the good people of Banjul. I humbly thank you for your trust. Know that I will continue to fight for you. Together we will make Banjul a place of hope and opportunity for all.
Thank you and May Allah bless our people and the great City of Banjul!
Mayoress Rohey Malick Lowe