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Published On: Mon, Jan 20th, 2020

Staffs of FSQA Dismissed- Food Safety & Quality Authority

By Awa B. Bah-Tunkara

Seven staffs of the Gambia Food Safety and Quality Authority, who were accused by their superiors of spreading false information both nationally and international, (FSQA) have confirmed to the VOD through a phone call that they have been served with a letter of dismissals from work.

“It is the view of management that your attitude and behavior 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.”

It is stated in the letter that 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 was 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.

According to Foroyaa, Ali Taal a food inspector said the action of the authorities constitutes a violation of their rights.

 “ We can confirm that eight of us were issued dismissal letters. The rest were called and told they have letters to collect at the office. But we do not know what the letters contained. Our salaries should not be stopped because we did not commit any offense for the DG to punish us,” he said.

Mustapha Darboe also a food inspector said they only saw the investigative report after they were dismissed by the management.

: “We believe that justice has not been served in this case. We are saying that we are illegally dismissed by an unauthorized person. We are ready to go as far as any length to make sure that the ‘biases’ are cleaned and the systems are put in place for us to work”, Darboe said.

It could be recalled that the staff of Food Safety and Quality Authority of The Gambia (FSQA) have over the week accused their director-general, Zainab Jallow, of corruption, mismanagement, and nepotism.

The allegations were made at a press conference held on Wednesday as 32 of 53 staff signed a petition demanding better working conditions.

Speaking at the press briefing, Alhagie Sowe, food inspector, FSQA, said the petition came as a result of the ‘abuse of office’ by the director-general of FSQA.  He clarified that their petition was not to ask for any salary increment or promotions. “As staff of the FSQA, we are concerned about the bad leadership of the current director-general and thus wish to bring forward the constant difficulties we face working under an extremely toxic work environment,” he pointed out. 

According to Mr. Sowe, the petition filed against Madam Jallow was not the first petition, stating that the first petition against her was in 2018. “A simple complaint against her bad leadership and mismanagement means you are a bad employee, hence you are sidelined, outcast, frustrated and forced to resign or she waits for you to commit an error to be fired,” he stated.

He highlighted their grievances such as lack of regular staff meetings, lack of collaboration with stakeholders, which he said, has rendered the institution to only operate at the Points of Entry, isolating the provincial Gambia.

“Lack of commitment on the part of our director-general is daunting hence she claimed lack of funds but she travels frequently, even when some trips are meant for junior staffs only to collect per diem. In some cases, she travels nothing less than twice a month,” he divulged.

According to Sowe, promotions in the office were based on personal relationships and affiliation rather than productive efficiency and education.

“Preferential treatment is given to companies based on their closeness to the director even when their practices are in clear violation of the Food Safety and Quality Act 2011. One clear example is; the Best Water Factory was closed and then released without laboratory results of samples that were sent to Germany.”

He highlighted some challenges in the office such as office space allocation to staff posted to the regions, lack of computers, proper accommodation and other materials needed at the seaport unit such as computers for report writing, others.

“An internal memo dated 9th January 2019 from the director-general of FSQA and signed by the director of Scientific Affairs Mr. Bai Dodou Jallow was issued to some of the petitioners (22 members), who signed the petition against the DG on the 7 October 2019. To our dismay, the memo informed the recipients to go on administrative leave without pay with immediate effect while the outcome of the investigation is still pending,” he said.

He added that they continue to lose staff under the leadership of the current DG due to the many reasons highlighted in the petition. “The most recent is losing our director of Finance who resigned a week ago leaving our finance Directorate and Human Resource units without heads.”

The affected staff, however, recommended for the outcomes of the investigation be known to them for transparency, also sending staff on administrative leave without pay be revoked among a host of others.

Reacting to these allegations, Director-General Zainab Jallow said it was junior staff of the Food Safety and Quality Authority that “were sent on administrative leave for refusing to go to work and comply with due directions from management in line with the Service Rules and Civil Service General Orders, unlawfully used the premises of the Authority to hold an unsanctioned press conference contrary to General Orders of the Government for Civil Servants and FSQA rules and regulations.”

“It is regretful that these staff took the decision to publicize their personal grievances and litany of false allegations and slander, that has been part of their Petition to the Office of the Vice President and that has been fully investigated and found to be false, but they persist in contravention of all norms of good governance and the Law.”

The Authority  is an agency of the Government of The Gambia and under the Office of The Vice President and all matters with regard to errant and unacceptable conduct of these junior staff will be dealt with according to the GO and Service Rules.”

Meanwhile  sources have revealed that authorities at Food Safety and Quality Authority of the Gambia (FSQA) this morning (today) went to Kotu Police Station to call on the police to arrest the sacked staff who reported to work today.
The Director-General Zainab Jallow of FSQA has been petitioned for alleged corruption, abuse of office and mismanagement.
Reports has it that last Friday more than eight staff of the authority were issued with dismissal letters for participating in a press conference on the said petition case which commenced earlier in October 2019.

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