The National Audit Office (NAO) of The Gambia has reported that the country’s only seaport acting as a maritime gateway for transiting cargoes in the sub-region might lose its trade benefits to neighbouring countries that sought to improve their ports.
The Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) is mandated to handle all cargoes entering The Gambia through the seaport, which amounts to 80 per cent of international trade.
According to the report, more than 70 per cent of the throughput handled by the port is for other countries within the sub-region.
The port was reported to have handled up to 49, 478 Twenty-Feet Equivalent Units (TEU) of transit cargoes between the periods 2016 to 2020.
Contrarily to the statement of former Trade Minister, Seedy Keita that ‘goods coming from Dakar port is bonus to Gambian economy’, the findings of the audit report showed specific concerns about the port’s narrow competitive edge that could threaten its trade benefits.
“If care is not taken, the country tends to lose its trade benefits to its neighbouring countries like Senegal and Guinea Conakry that sought to improve their ports,” said the NAO report.
According to the findings of the audit report that covers the period 2016 to 2020, the vessel turnaround time at the port of Banjul is significantly below standard.
It highlights the delay at anchorage and discharging containerised cargo.
This is due to limited berth availability, absence of modern discharging equipment such as mobile cranes and mobile gantry cranes amongst others.
“This congestion is precipitated by numerous factors ranging from terminal space management, terminal layouts, aged stevedore workers, plants availability, importers using the ports as a storage facility to the high level of bureaucracies involve in the clearing process,” the report stated.
It further revealed the lack of established supervision and monitoring mechanisms at the GPA.
The only monitoring mechanism in place is not active, as the auditors have noted that the internal audit committee does not meet frequently.
“We also noted from review of minutes that internal audit reports are not discussed at board meetings.”
The report showed that the monitoring mechanism in place is not adequate to effectively monitor the activities of the port.
“The systems in place are not robust enough to be able to set indicators and be able to measure whether the port is prudent, efficient and effective,” the auditors pointed out.
The auditors recommended the board to ensure that internal audit reports are discussed and actions are taken to remedy the concerns raised and conduct follow-up on the report to resolve the matter.
It is said that Gambia did not have the legal framework to attract private participation such as granting of concessions and other forms of public-private collaboration.
Several investors both national and international companies have reportedly shown interest but none of them were successful.