A Malagen investigation has found that The Gambia Government suffered financial losses to the tune of D274m due to the airport security levy contract. 

In 2019, the government signed a contract with US-based firm Securiport to provide aviation and immigration security. 

And in September 2020, the government imposed a $20 security levy at Banjul International Airport for all inbound and outbound passengers. 

“The introduction of $20 security levy at the airport has caused possible financial loss of at least D274m to the state,” Malagen said. 

Malagen, a Gambia-based investigative news platform, also found that the contract violated the country’s procurement and public finance rules.

It claimed that the contract was negotiated by the Office of the President despite opposition from senior government officials at the ministries of tourism and justice. 

Securiport has already billed the government to pay $4.5m as accrued arrears, according to Malagen. 

Securiport told Malagen that the payment is in line with the contract. 

“Securiport finalised its installation and started on March 2019 its operation,” the company said in an email response to Malagen. 

“Given the Government’s request for an extension until September 2020 to start the fee collection, Securiport maintained the systems, trained personnel, and provided technical support without receiving any revenue until September 2020.”

According to Malagen, the government has agreed to the company’s demands for contract extension and payment of the ‘accrued arrears’. 

It said the Ministry of Finance has already disbursed D218m, paid in several instalments, from February 2021 to June 2022. 

The balance of D55m is arranged to be paid in December 2022. This will complete $4.5 (D247m) payment of ‘accrued arrears’.

The $20 airport levy is not popular with travellers and tourists operators who believed that it is destroying the country’s tourism industry. 

“We have been struggling for the past two years from the effects of Covid-19 and this thing [security fee] is not helping,” Liane Sallah, chairperson of the Travel and Tourism Association Gambia, told Malagen. 

Last month, Scandinavia’s largest tour operator Nordic Leisure Travel Group cancelled trips to The Gambia citing “higher cost and increase of passenger tax” at the airport among reasons for the cancellation. 

For every $20 airport levy collected, Securiport pockets $10 while the government and the aviation authority take $5 each. 

However It is not clear how much is collected on an annual basis but government data showed that for 2021, the airport registered 200,473 arrivals and departures. 

The figure was much higher in 2020 with 477, 000 visitors. 

The Gambia Government has been contacted for comment. 

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