Madi Jobarteh

The calamitous supply of electricity in the Gambia has been a perennial issue since the establishment of NAWEC which was originally called GUC and then MSG yet the matter remains conclusively and effectively unaddressed. Not only had there been poor, limited and erratic supply of energy but that electricity voltage itself has been low generally yet expensive both for the Government and the citizen. Until now vast majority of Gambians have no access to electricity hence hampering the ability of citizens to enjoy quality living standards while retarding national development.

With the advent of the new government Gambians have expected that the Barrow Administration would finally address this matter once and for all given the high level of inefficiency and corruption in this sector since the First Republic which got worse under the APRC regime. Not only had Yaya Jammeh directly interfered with and illegally benefited from personalizing NAWEC and exploiting energy supply but also many communities were directly denied electricity supply on the basis of their support for the opposition or simply for not voting for APRC and Yaya Jammeh.

Both in his campaign manifesto and since coming to power, Pres. Barrow and his Government have continuously said that the issue of electricity supply and NAWEC are major concerns for them. Yet more than 12 months after taking over power the situation of NAWEC and the happenings in the energy sector raise more worries and questions than offer better answers and solutions. It appears that fundamentally there has been no system change yet in this sector as indications point to massive inefficiency and patronage hence corruption that must be addressed.

Information now being circulated that the Senegal agreement leaves much to be desired requires that the National Assembly institute a parliamentary enquiry in order to protect national interest. Much as Senegal is a unique neighbour of the Gambia, yet the Gambia is a distinct country that has its national interests that must be protected. Hence any deal with Senegal or any country requires to be negotiated with the best interest of the Gambia in mind. Therefore the terms of the agreement for energy supply from Senegal must be reviewed to determine how beneficial or detrimental it is to the Gambia.

From sources inside NAWEC and the energy sector as a whole, it is claimed that the Senegal deal is not beneficial to the Gambia both for the short and long term interests of the Gambia. The fact that Senegal supplies electricity to the country potentially compromises national security since Senegal has the ability to unilaterally blackout the Gambia at any time. The supply of energy and its importance to national security is such that such supply must be controlled from within the country, preferably from entities that are national private entities or from a national company such as NAWEC. Therefore the need for the National Assembly to investigate the Senegal deal is urgent and necessary especially given the reports that are now emerging that better and cheaper deals where rejected in favour of Senegal. Why?

Secondly the governance and management of NAWEC and the operations and operators in the supply of energy must be looked into with urgency. Already NAWEC has indicated that it has a debt of millions of dalasi. This clearly shows that NAWEC is a not a viable or profitable entity that warrants the company to be either sold or closed down otherwise a clear and more pragmatic solution must be found to maintain it as a national asset.

The truth however is that NAWEC must be able to operate profitably, efficiently and accountably. But NAWEC has been unable to be such a company simply because of lack of transparency and accountability hence corruption since its inception. The basis for such perennial poor performance and corruption is simply and squarely a matter of poor leadership right from the Office of the President, to its line ministry to the National Assembly to its Board of Directors. There is no reason why public enterprises should not be profitable and efficient if there is effective and strategic leadership to ensure efficiency, transparency and accountability.

Hence if Barrow wishes to address the issue of NAWEC he must first of all review the role and function of the Office of the President in this matter. This means he needs to review his own vision and modus operandi in terms of the running of public enterprises as set out in the laws. Until the governance and management systems, processes and personnel of NAWEC are properly constituted and operated in line with the law then this company will not do well but will continue to be a waste of public resources without providing efficient services to citizens.

For example, the composition of NAWEC’s board needs to be reviewed because it comprises individuals and businesses that have vested interest in the energy sector. Hence there are clear conflicts of interest within the Board hence undermining the efficiency and accountability of NAWEC as well as the supply of energy in the country. Furthermore there are individuals and businesses close to the corridors of power that have vested interests in the energy sector hence use their power and influence to drive this Government towards deals and agreements that benefit them first and foremost at the detriment of the Gambia. This must stop!

Pres. Barrow must realise that the issue of NAWEC and the energy sector is about his own personal legacy as President of the Republic. He must be able to have the wisdom to see through and behind the words and actions of so-called advisers, board members, ministers, directors and indeed all players in this matter to identify the best interest of the Gambia and stand by that. He must not allow individuals to take advantage of him in order to profit themselves at the detriment of the Gambia.

The Gambia has the capacity to ensure 24 hours of uninterrupted power supply provided Pres. Barrows demonstrates the necessary leadership to ensure firm decisions that are transparent, accountable and participatory. We could not enjoy uninterrupted power supply since Independence for no reason other than the failure of leadership by Dawda Jawara for 30 years and Yaya Jammeh for 22 years. But Barrow can address this issue within 12 months if indeed he is ready to show the necessary strategic leadership. It does not have to take him 5 years to set this country on the path of ensuring a 24-hour uninterrupted power supply. Unfortunately so far, he is not showing that leadership.

The ball is in his court!

For the Gambia, Our Homeland.