FSQA staff petition DG over abuse of office allegation

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EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Staff of the Food Safety and Quality Authority of The Gambia (FSQA) have released a petition against their Director General, Zainab Jallow, for what they called her bad leadership and excess abuses of office.

The staff said in the petition that they are not asking for any salary increments, promotions or any other benefits but as staff of the FSQA, they are concerned about Mrs Jallow’s ‘bad’ leadership and highlight the constant difficulties they face working under an extreme toxic work environment.

“We would also like to stress the importance of the FSQA, being an institution dealing with food and its independence from government ministries, this allows for scientific research in food and food contaminants to generate data for evidence based decision making.”

Mrs Jallow told Eye Africa that the petition was written since last October, arguing that they did not petition her because she was not serve with a copy.

She said those who are labeling her leadership are inspection staff, saying they have submitted their petition to the Secretary General and head of the civil service, office of they vice president and other offices. “Since then, the FSQA board have setup an independent investigation into the matter and the investigation report found them wanting and the board is asked to come up with recommendation,” she said.

The Authority is established by the Food Safety and Quality Act, 2011 under the Office of The President. It is the sole National Competent Authority with powers of delegation mandated to officially control the safety and quality of all foods (including water and beverages) and animal feed whether locally produced, imported or destined for export.

The displeased staff said as concerned staffers, they believed the best way to deal with the issue was to inform the management of some of their grievances and have them solve internally, which led to a staff meeting was convened on the 3rd of June 2019. They said since there have not been any staff meeting for over a year, they believed it was a perfect platform to address some of their grievances.

“Unfortunately, no staff was allowed to say a word during the meeting. Therefore, we have no other option than to write this petition because under the leadership of Madam Zainab Jallow at FSQA, a simple complain against her bad leadership and mismanagement means you are a bad employee.”

Mrs Jallow said the petitioners have since refused to report to work claiming that they are not going to listen to anyone but the board. “We have made it clear to them that refusal to work will them. Board’s decision is that I have to now take decision.”

She said she is trying to apply compassion as much as possible because she does not want to see anyone loss his or her job because of her but if she is forced to the limits, she will have no option but to take drastic decision. “I always try to work within the limits of the law and I have already informed my line ministry about the matter.”

The petition alleges that from 2014 to date, many staff have either resigned or been fired due to Mrs Jallow’s bad leadership. The staff also alleged that FSQA is being managed as a personal enterprise, in which internal structures, procedures and codes of conduct are not respected by the current management.  “Due to unilateral decisions by the Director General, five years after its inception, the FSQA is yet to achieve its goals and fulfill its mandate.”

Grievances

The staff listed several points as their justification to demand Mrs Jallow’s leadership correction. “Various assessments were done at the FSQA over the past years, in all of these assessments, some key conclusions were made as to how to make the FSQA better and improve the food safety system in The Gambia. One critical conclusion in all of these assessments is the improved collaboration between the FSQA and other departments; including signing of MoUs for better execution of food control activities.”

They said as at now, only one MoU has been signed with the Ministry of Health, which is not effectively implemented due to poor collaboration. Other than that, no MoUs have been signed or have been renewed upon expiration. Madam Zainab simply refuses to sign or discuss them. This means there are serious lapses in food control activities in the Gambia. Staff are forbidden to collaborate with other institutions and those found to have are penalized. We believe management is interested in other things that are not making FSQA better and protecting the public.

They said FSQA has less than 40 food control officers for the whole country, saying the MoUs would have ensured that departments like the Public Health and Fisheries can execute some of the mandates of the FSQA hence assuring the safety of Gambians.

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