By Sanna Camara
The Gambia’s entrepreneurial advisory body for medium and small scale enterprises has been closed down over the past six months, while its funds transferred to boost the operations of investment agency.
Official government sources told Gambia Beat that “The 17 full-time staff of IBAS were sent home and told to sit and wait on Personnel Management Office and the Public Service Commission. Up to date, they were told nothing of their fate and stayed out of jobs.”
IBAS, the Indigenous Business Advisory Service, was established to advise Gambian business people in every aspect of business management with the aim of achieving a higher rate of efficiency. It is targeted on small and medium scale businesses enterprises (SMEs) and can provide microfinance in the form of soft loans.
GIEPA unwilling to absorb staff
IBAS operates under the Ministry of Trade, while investment and export promotions agency, GIEPA, is the national agency established by an Act of Parliament in July 2010 charged with promoting and facilitating private sector investments into The Gambia.
Its mission is: “To promote a conducive environment, attract investments, develop exports and support businesses with the overriding objective of contributing towards employment creation and wealth generation.”
“GIEPA is not willing to take any of the laid-off staff of IBAS. There are hundreds of groups registered and operating with us, right from the Kanifing Municipality to Kalagi; and from Barra to Kaur, plus individual entrepreneurs,” the source said.
What IBAS does with these groups is to train their members on sustainable business operations and management, along with micro-finance and loan management skills.
Our accounts hold over D2 million
“We do train them how to do business and give them loans. A percentage of them are already saving with us. Our accounts hold over D2 million in PHB, now called Skystone Bank,” the source added.
Our source explained that “80% of the IBAS funds are meant for supporting now, it is going to GIEPA.
“Our office was audited and everything was fine and people still need our services. However, there were millions in the accounts which they (government) need,” a former staff said, allaying fears of financial impropriety by its management.
“All this problems started during the time of Yuspha Kah when he was Permanent Secretary at Trade Ministry and could not do it…
“For five years since the name change from GIPFZA to GIEPA, the agency could not do much because its mandate already existed under the Chamber of Commerce and IBAS,” a top official of GIEPA explained.
In its recent report to the PAC/PEC of the National Assembly, our source is worried that nothing has been mentioned of the GIEPA taking over of IBAS in its 2013/2014 activity Report.