By Lamin Njie

Minister of Health Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh admitted they have officials that will ‘not’ give up in their attempt to pilfer the country’s coronavirus money.

The ministry of health has come under sharp public scrutiny following the announcement of 500 million dalasis in emergency funds set to be used in the fight against coronavirus.

There has been palpable public concern after a letter was leaked online showing officials already making moves to get themselves loaded under the guise of allowances.

The minister of health told lawmakers on Friday ‘we have people among us, they will not change’ as he reacted to the letter.

Dr Samateh said: “Yes, we know we have people amongst us, they will not change and they will not give up trying [to steal]. They will keep on trying but will they succeed? That’s the issue. So if people try, and their trial leaks, I don’t think that’s calls for alarm.

“Because what we did, when I went to see the minister of finance, I said, ‘this thing, first we need to make an expeditious and judicious use of these funds but because it’s emergency, procurements need to be done first but under those circumstances people can abuse them’.

“I suggested the formation of the committee and he said to me, ‘I will support you’ – and we have a committee. The committee is the permanent secretary ministry of health and a few senior members; permanent secretary ministry of finance, few senior members from there [finance ministry]; the accountant general; the director of internal audit; the director general of GPPA.

“They sit over every procurement issue so that they can decide and make sure there is transparency and accountability at that high level. And they report to us and we see what they have decided on. Every request goes through them, the disbursements, all these things go through them.

“Now I said to a group of people, I said to the people who are responsible, who are making the list for these allowances. I said to them, ‘I the minister of health, I don’t want any allowance, I don’t want any honorarium, I don’t want any butut, I am doing sacrifice for my country irrespective of the challenge’.

“Now few days down the line, they put forward a long list of many names. Now that list did not get to me for vetting, it went straight to this committee and this committee detected that it was bogus and I was alerted and we withdrew it and I told them to withdraw it and we reprimanded them for that. So this is what is happening and we are observing all the processes.”