By Mamadou Dem
Balla Gaye, the former Minister of Finance, yesterday reappeared before the ‘Janneh’ Commission and testified that he believed the investment made by GPA, GNPC and SSHFC in Gam Petroleum was for the national interest.
However, he said whether the investment was viable to government or not, the reason was best known to the former president who instructed for the investment to be carried out.
Mr. Gaye reppeared in connection to NAWEC, Euro Africa Group and Gam Petroleum respectively.
Testifying on Gam Petroleum, he told the commission that he was the Finance Minister from 2003 to 2009 and that SSHFC, GPA, and GNPC were required to invest in Gam Petroleum in 2008.
However, Mrs. Bensouda told him that the Commission did not know why these companies were asked to invest in Gam Petroleum. At this juncture, a letter instructing the said companies to purchase shares on Gam Petroleum was given to him to go through, which he did and confirmed his signature on the said letter. He told the Commission that the instruction came from the office of the former president and the reason was best known to the former president.
The former minister adduced that they were instructed by the former president to ask SSHFC to buy 10% shares on Gam Petroleum, noting that they got the evaluation of the shares, adding that the acquisition of the shares on Gam Petroleum was the decision of the former president which was to the tune of € 7,000,000.
A letter dated 10th June, 2008, to SSHFC conveying approval of the first installment on the investment amounting to €2,000,000 was shown to the witness and he confirmed his signature on that document.
He said he thought acquiring shares on Gam Petroleum was a national interest and acquiring shares on the storage facility was reasonable, but whether it was viable to government was best known to the former president, because he instructed them to write to SSHFC regarding the investment. He added that he advised the Managing Director of SSHFC to get the relevant information on Gam Petroleum to determine the value of the company.
According to him, 40% of the € 7,000,000 was spent on the strategic investment; adding that as a minister, his relation with the former president depended on circumstances; adding that petroleum pricing was a very difficult exercise, noting that the price in the country was influential. He said they had dealt with the oil companies over time.
On whether he had a meeting with the parastatals that had invested in Gam Petroleum, he responded in the negative; adding that he did not know whether the former president had interest in Gam Petroleum. He said it was public knowledge that the people who set up Gam Petroleum were close to the former president.
Mr. Gaye further told the Commission that as a civil servant, he was trained to respect decisions of permanent secretaries, while as a minister, you must carry out instructions or you resign.
It was put to him by Counsel Bensouda that GPA MD said that their investment did not yield any dividend. In response, he said he read it in the newspapers that the investors were not represented in the management. He said they were told that they made a profit of D90,000,000.
On the exclusivity granted to Euro Africa Group for the importation of fuel, he said he had indicated in his statement that the exclusivity started before he became the minister, and when he was removed in 2009, it continued. He said he could not tell which company was enjoying the exclusivity and it was news to him that Euro Africa Group was incorporated in 2004.
According to him, his ministry was not involved in the operation. However, he said when the exclusivity contract was about to expire, Euro Africa Group wrote to the ministry asking for an extension or renewal of the contract. He said when he was appointed as minister; he had a series of consultations with different institutions and the Central Bank of The Gambia.
Mr. Gaye further revealed that the commercial banks had consultations with CBG and the arrangement was made for the exclusivity, and that he did not know how the contract was awarded. He said the late Nfamara Jatta, former Governor of the bank, would have been in a better position to explain.
At this juncture, Mrs. Bensouda told him that apart from the exclusivity, Global Trading Group and Global Electrical Group (GTG & GEG) enjoyed quite a number of contracts which were awarded to them, which included the purchase of generators.
He was further told by counsel that the office of the former president instructed SSHFC to give a loan to NAWEC for the purchase of two generators from Mr. Muhammed Bazzi, amounting to €4.2 million.
However, the witness said he could not recollect having a meeting at his office regarding the D118,000,000 loan given to NAWEC by SSHFC for the purchase of 30 mega watts generators. He added that details of a memo made him to conclude that these were instructions from the office of the former president.
He further disclosed that NAWEC staff were professionals and that they should have put the specifications required.
It was put to him by Counsel Bensouda that NAWEC said they were compelled to take loans from SSHFC to purchase generators and in response, he said he could not recall that. He added that he got the information about things happening at NAWEC from the newspapers covering the Commission.
He was further told by counsel that one of the Managing Directors at NAWEC, Momodou B. Jallow, testified that it was him (Gaye) who said to them that the former president had instructed for the purchase of the generators by SSHFC. He said he could not remember saying so.
Mrs. Bensouda also put it to him that Mr. Jallow also testified that he was helpful in getting resources for NAWEC, which he confirmed, adding that he could not remember some of the projects.
At this juncture, the witness’ statement, a letter and other relevant documents were tendered and admitted in evidence.
Mr. Yahya Colley, a technician at Gamtel, reappeared in connection to the supply of IP-VS. A letter was read to him by Counsel Bensouda, and he said that he begged to defer from the statement in the said letter.
He testified that there were many employees, including himself, who were being trained to be able to install IP-VS facilities. It was put to him that Gamtel did not have the capacity to do this type of service.
On whether he was part of the installation process of the Sisco Communication System at State House, he said he was not involved. He said Mobicell did not train them for the installation of the said system.
According to him, there was no knowledge transferred, noting that deployment was done when their technicians were busy. He informed the Commission that on technical point of view, Gamtel did not gain from sub-contracting the contract to Mobicell for the installation of the Unified Communication System at the National Assembly.
Mr. Colley adduced that he never worked for Mobicell, further stating that he was at the National Assembly as an observer but he was never paid for working at the National Assembly and others were not paid as well.
“Why Mobicell did not do the training for the installation of the Unified Communication System at the National Assembly?”asked Counsel Mba’i. In response, he said no reason was given.
At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda objected to the question because the witness answered the question the previous day.
Commissioner Saine then put it to him that Gamtel made more payments than they should gain, and the witness concurred with him.
Commissioner Abbiosseh George asked him why they went for Mobicell, and he replied that they were looking for somebody who could give out something. She again put it to him that there was no due diligence in the service. He responded that Mobicell was recommended to them for the installation of the facilities.
The Commission resumes sitting on Monday July 16th 2018.