I have no part in the ruckus going on within and among the staff of the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation. I am neither with the staff nor am I with the Managing Director, but I have serious reservations about the institution itself. I am a Gambian citizen working as a servant of the nation and I am entitled to certain benefits from this institution provided I fulfill certain criteria which, to the best of my ability, I have – and continue to – fulfil.

By its name, this institution is supposed to provide a security and safety net for the ordinary and poor citizens like myself. Seeing that in countries like ours, the salary is so miserable, so small and insignificant, institutions like this are set up to ensure that when we complete our work – retire – we will not want, not be destitute and homeless in our own yard. That is what the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation is – should be – about.

The Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation is set up by the government to work towards making plans and arrangements which will ensure that when people leave office they will not want, they will have something to fall back on. Thus, it is supposed to provide schemes which will make it possible for retirees to have access to cheap and affordable houses and other needs so as to be able to live good and dignified lives.

However, what we observe in the past few decades is that the SSHFC was not interested in the welfare of the people who are – should be – its primary beneficiaries. These beneficiaries are actually its principal shareholders inasmuch as it is their contributions that makes it a viable entity. We have seen – or heard – how the former president will – at the ring of the telephone – siphons millions of dalasis from the coffers of this institution. What about the poor workers who have been contributing to the fund from their hard-earned money? What will you tell them when the time comes that they need the returns on their investments?

We know for a fact that sometimes people or even institutions or departments can go for three to four years without getting their tax return information from the SSHFC. What is the matter that an institution as large as the SSHFC and with hundreds of employees and hundreds of millions cannot make the necessary arrangements to give its principal shareholders information about their ‘ill-fated’ investments? Who is to blame for that? Is it the staff or the management therein?

We have heard of staff of the infamous Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation giving themselves hundreds of thousands of dalasis to build houses and go for further education and whatnot. That in itself is not wrong because almost all institutions do that anyway, but it should be in addition to doing what they are meant to do in the first place. Do these people provide us any relief in the form of cheap housing and other benefits in the first place? Well, if the answer is yes, I have no idea; I have never seen or heard anyone (outside) of the institution benefitting from such.

Now, on the current standoff where the staff are demanding the sacking of the Managing Director and where the manager making a case of his innocence of the charges they levy against him, I am neither here nor there. But I think the government’s slow action is contributing to the continuous logjam. When this matter came to the notice of the presidency months ago, swift and stern action should have been taken after investigation was conducted. Why didn’t the government take the right measures to ensure that the problem is handled properly instead of allowing it to fester?

My advice is that the government should seek a solution to this problem as soon as possible. The Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation should be reformed and put in the right direction to ensure that the primary purpose of its existence is met. The Gambian worker deserves better and we can’t continue to watch the institution that is meant to smoothen our future continue to be destroyed by in-fighting within its ranks. Whoever’s fault it is, is not our main concern. Our main concern is that they should put their house in order so that they can serve us right!

Tha Scribbler Bah

A Concerned Citizen