GOV’T EXPLAINS CONTROVERSIAL D40M MEDIA CONTRACT TO ASSEMBLY

GOV’T EXPLAINS CONTROVERSIAL D40M MEDIA CONTRACT TO ASSEMBLY

The Ministry of Information has come out with a long explanation of how the highly controversial D40 million media contract was conceived and handed to selected media houses.

The payment attracted widespread condemnation with some calling it hush money move to influence the media. 

Since the scandal broke, government officials have been attempting to justify the move with little success as more critical voices against the move emerged. 

In its latest defence of the much-criticised contract, the Ministry of Information in response to a parliamentary question raised by the NAM for Janjangbureh, Omar Jammeh, the ministry gave the following explanation: “This pilot phase of the media services contract was restricted to audio/visual development-oriented documentaries, infographic videos, dramas, expert panel discussions, human interest/public interest stories and??? live coverage of state events. Like any rational human being, the standards used for the selection of the media entities for participation in this pilot phase were informed by the judgement and perception of the government regarding, ??competency, viewership/audience, ??professional independence, ???capacity to air audio/visuals and ?existence of baseline trust and confidence.

“The media services contract is not and should not be construed or mistaken for a propaganda instrument for scoring political gains. Instead, it is a conduit to support the free flow of information on government policy, regulatory and legal instruments besides the popularization of development activities, projects and programmatic interventions with a view to empower the society with requisite knowledge and critical mindsets to reinforce democratic accountability through constructive criticism”.

The ministry further argued that proactive information sharing with the public through ‘Access to Information and Public Consultation and Popularization of the Government Agenda’ has just begun with the effectiveness of the media services contract.

“In the absence of proactive information sharing, the government will lose the space to professional disinformation campaigners or political activists operating under the obscurity of online media practice. As a responsible and responsive government administration, we remain committed to the course of providing the public with unfettered access to information on all aspects of the government as espoused under the ATI Act 2021. We are ready to tackle the attendant challenges of the paradigm shift in the information value chain (social media platforms) through proactive public consultation and popularization of the government agenda with a view to effectively and efficiently take charge of the narratives. Finally, the Ministry is determined to provide the necessary conditions for the vibrancy of our political activism in the guise of online media practice. In essence, the combined imperatives imposed by the existence and potencies of the ATI Act 2021, ATI Implementation Framework, National Communications Framework, Medium-Term Strategic Plan 2024-2028, the government of the Gambia through the Ministry recognizes the need for a galvanized Communications Action Plan to rein in disinformation and its distortionary impacts and take control of the narratives through proactive information sharing. It is against this backdrop that the Media Services Contract came into effect to address legitimate challenges that repeatedly reduced the government to a defensive position, a situation often induced by inadvertent communications gaps. To put its acts together, the government through this Ministry recognizes the need for a scientific approach to its communications apparatus realizable on the heels of the effectiveness of the Media Services Contract,” it added.

The ministry added that the Media Services Contract thus seeks to promote access to information held by public entities particularly those that relate to development activities, projects, and programmatic interventions with focus on collective growth.

Bidding

The Ministry explained that it had applied for restricted tender approval established under section 44(1) of GPPA Act 2022.

“The GPPA approval for a restricted tender was issued on 10 October 2023 through a letter referenced GPPA/M o Information/TR3/23. The approval effectively granted the Ministry to float a restricted tender and in response, technical and financial proposals were submitted by participating bidders. The Contracts Committee of the Ministry presided over the bid evaluation process that eventually paved the way for the submission of a comprehensive bid evaluation report to the GPPA. On the strengthen of the bid evaluation report, the GPPA granted final approval of the bidding process conveyed to the Ministry through a letter referenced GPPA/M o Information/TR3/23 dated 1* December 2023. Furthermore, the Ministry upon receipt of the final GPPA approval drafted seven (7) different contracts (5 broadcast entities and 2 Content Developers) and submitted the contracts to the Attorney General’s Chambers for legal opinion and possible redrafting.

The ministry noted that the AG Chambers reverted with redrafted contracts that reflected the final versions. The Ministry solicited approval and received cash allocation equivalent to 50% of the contract value from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs to defray contractual obligations upon the signing of the contracts,” it concluded.

Source: The Standard

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