Did The Sports Ministry Spend D800, 000 on 10 Air Tickets to Togo?

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by Alieu Ceesay

Investigations has revealed that the Ministry of Youth Sports has ‘spent over D800, 000’ to secure 10 air tickets from Satguru Travel Agency. The said air tickets were meant for a 10-man delegation of basketball players and coaches traveling to the West African Nation of Togo to attend a continental basketball championship.

The 3 by3 basketball competition is a Federation of International Basketball Associations (FIBA) sanctioned one.

Ministry sources say Minister Henry Gomez was personally responsible for negotiating the air tickets. The sources lamented some corruption practices taking place at the said Ministry.

The total budget provided by The Gambia Basketball Association (GBA) to the Ministry was said to be around D900, 000, which was meant to cover air tickets, accommodation, feeding and per diem.

This issue left many asking questions as to how D800,000 is spent on 10 air tickets to Togo?

The basketball players have since returned home and are not quite happy with the actions of the ministry, which failed in their responsibility of providing them with allowances/per diems. The players were in Togo for  five days and have lamented the unfair treatment they received.

An invoice seen by this reporter from Satguru sent and received by the ministry put the costs of the air tickets of each member of the delegation at over D80, 000.

A member of the delegation who wished not to be mention expressed how the lack of allowances affected them while in Lome.”We had to use our own small pocket money we provided by ourselves.”

Anywhere in the world, it is the responsibility of the government through the sports ministry to fund a national team.

Sports is described as a lucrative industry in the 21st century, but in The Gambia it is a different story. This has left the Gambian basketball players unhappy with all the authorities for the lack of non-payment of neither allowance nor per diem.

The anonymous delegate said the players were left disrespected and humiliated by the actions of the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

“Such action will only demotivate the players and something has to be done about it. The players only traveled because they wanted to represent the country.”

The issues of allowances for traveling athletes have remained a major concern when it comes to international competition.

A ministry source has also hinted some corruption practices at the ministry, citing an incident where the Minister was paid a per diem for five day trip of D91, 000 to Kenya in September, which he neither attended nor returned the money.

“His clearance was approved on September 4 to travel with his PS Dawda L Ceesay, but it was only Ceesay who ended up traveling. One Ebrima Drammeh signed the approval letter for the Secretary General,” the investigations further confirmed.

When contacted on the issue, Papa Njie, President of The Gambia Basketball Association confirmed the players traveled to Togo without any pocket money.

However, the KM Mayoral aspirant confirmed giving personal financial support to the delegation. He said the National Sports Council provided the air ticket, but could not provide allowances due to what he said the Sports Council said to be ‘financial constraint’.

“I sent the delegation some money while in Togo through Western Union,” he stated. Minister Gomez is currently out of town on an official mission and this reporter will contact him for his side of the story when he returns. He was contacted but he would prefer granting an interview when he returns next week.

Since his appointment, Minister Gomez has been openly condemning corruption in Gambian sports. He has promised to take Gambian Sports from 0% to 100%, but it seems that dream will take a long time to be realized.

The National Sports Council, an arm under his ministry has instituted an investigation team to probe into the financial dealings of The Gambia Football Federation.

The National Sports Council has also suspended The Gambia Football Federation Executive Committee, even though the latter said it is not recognizing the decision.

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