The Gambia’s Health Minister Dr Ahmadou Lamin Samateh has made a damning statement about the level of corruption at his ministry amid the coronavirus crisis.

Dr Samateh, in a very rare moment of candour by a senior government official, told the National Assembly on Saturday that some of his officials overseeing the ministry’s Covid-19 funds have been greedy and corrupt. 

The minister is frustrated that efforts to tackle the deadly coronavirus crisis in the country is being hampered by some corrupt officials at the Health ministry. 

“Covid-19 is a difficult period for everyone. It is most difficult for the Health minister of the republic of The Gambia. Because The Gambia is a special case,” Dr Samateh told lawmakers. 

“So instead of us responding to Covid-19 by strategising, developing policies, we are dealing with allowances and allowance lists.”

The Health minister said the problem started after President Barrow announced the D500 million funds to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

“That’s when the problem as a Health ministry started. Unfortunately, people start to even forget about COVID, all they talk about is money, money, money. That’s why I said our work is very very difficult, Dr Samateh said. 

“Now, we said, ‘provide the list’. When we talk about these things, it is not the majority, it’s just in the minority that do some of these things. 

“The majority are hardworking, dedicated, sacrificing their lives for the people of this country.

“Now, that minority provided a list. In fact, when you look at the list and the estimates, it consumes almost the entire D500 million for allowances.“

The minister said some of the officials have been adding ghost workers to the list of frontline health workers. 

He said when some of the officials were challenged in a review of the frontline workers they admitted to not knowing some of the people on the list. 

Dr Samateh revealed that over 300 people were listed as “volunteers” many of them were fake. 

“This allowance issue is very unfortunate. Government came up with the idea that, as we have been saying ever since: no one can ever pay health workers especially frontline health workers.”

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