Editorial: ID card fiasco persists despite national budgetary allocation

The Gambia government under the leadership of Adama Barrow has not issued national identity cards to Gambians since his government came into being in January 2017, despite the allocation of millions of taxpayers’ money from the national treasury to sort out the problem.

In addition to the large sum of money approved by the country`s National Assembly in 2017 for the issuance of ID cards, a further amount of 2 million dalasis was approved by the Assembly at the beginning of the 2018 financial year for issuing of the cards to resume. However, thousands of Gambians are still requesting for the cards but the issuing authority cannot provide any.

The former Interior Minister Mai Ahmed Fatty and Habib Saihou Drammeh the current Interior Minister who replaced fatty both informed parliament that processing of the much needed ID cards would resume sooner than later, but the crisis persists.

Their promises are yet to be fulfilled as many Gambians are being afflicted by the shortage. Gambians at the age of 18 onwards are required by law to possess national identity cards for various reasons such as personal safety, identification, and receiving money from banks, accessing medical care and accessing higher education.

It is also mandatory for adult citizens to show their ID cards when traveling within the country and the sub region.

An anonymous source says the Belgian company SEMLEX that has been contracted by the previous Gambia government to issue ID cards contract has been terminated by the Barrow government.

The source added that President Barrow`s government has opened bidding until 29th January for a qualified contractor to be awarded the contract of processing the cards. Apparently, beyond the deadline of bidding, there is no news as to who is awarded the contract.

It is believed that the two qualified companies in the country that have likely applied for the project are SEMLEX and PRISTINE CONSULTING, owned by two Gambian brothers who the Jammeh government owed millions of dalasis.

According to a source, the Belgian company SEMLEX is associated with Mr. Muhammed Bazzi a prominent businessman who is allegedly believed to be involved with the former President’s ghost companies, and underhanded dealings as exposed at the ongoing Commission of Enquiry, that is instituted by the Barrow government.

Sources added that the same Bazzi was responsible for the predicament of the Touray brothers when he instigated Jammeh to force the brothers into some kind of dirty deal and when they refused to entertain any such deals, the elder brother was arrested and detained, and their company was suspended.

What many enlightened Gambians cannot fathom is, why is it that a home grown company as reputable as the Pristine Consulting that had reliably processed over 600,000 authentic biometric cards with reliable security features and has the potential to make all other national documents biometric such as the voting card, birth certificate, Alein card, etc not be renegotiated with, considering the trouble they have taken and the huge debt owed to them by government and the fact that they have the ability to commence operations immediately?

Gambians are not comfortable when they see signs of the past scenarios in what everyone considers as the new Gambia. A new Gambia with old habits is synonymous with ‘old wines in new bottles’ and is worrisome, to say the least.

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