By Mamadou Dem
Mr. Kebba S. Touray, former Finance Minister during the former Jammeh regime, yesterday told to the ‘Janneh’ Commission, that they discovered that NAWEC’s balance sheet was in a mess and the Company was highly indebted.
Touray was testifying in connection to the bond agreement between the former government, NAWEC and various Commercial Banks and according to him, they requested NAWEC to give them a statement on their liabilities; that when they received the statement, they realized that NAWEC was highly indebted; that NAWEC’s indebtedness towards some Companies affected some Commercial banks. Touray said at the meeting, they concluded that they should find a solution to settle NAWEC’s loans, further adducing that NAWEC owes a huge sum to some Commercial Banks, fuel and spare parts suppliers respectively.
According to him, at the meeting, there was a proposal that the interest rate NAWEC was paying (22%), should be reduced to 15%; that they told the CBG Governor that Commercial Banks may come down because of NAWEC’s loans.
Touray told the Commission that from the Ministry of Finances’ perspective, NAWEC was able to save money to buy fuel but the Company’s balance sheet was in a mess; that he would not know whether NAWEC defaulted on the bond. He said he did not know either why NWEC failed.
The former Finance Minister disclosed that their concern at the time was NAWEC’s position because they owed over 1 billion dalasi, and that the former Government did not guarantee Eagle’s debts, indicating that they were intervening on behalf of NAWEC.
He testified that because NAWEC is a public enterprise, the former Government is responsible for the Company’s liabilities, and that NAWEC belongs to Government.
Touray disclosed that some Commercial Banks had exposures close to their capital, thereby putting the country’s banking system at stake, because there was a point where Banks could not open a Letter of Credit (LC).
On why was his Ministry was concerned about Eagle’s debt, he responded that they were not negotiating on behalf of Eagle but NAWEC; that getting the private sector’s participation in the energy sector, was a concern of the former Government.
Testifying earlier on the same subject matter, Amadou Colley, former Governor of the Central Bank, said prior to the NAWEC bond, a national committee HILEC, which was under the office of the former vice president to which he was a member together with the permanent secretary, called for a meeting; that in one of the meetings in 2015, the committee discussed the financial situation of NAWEC and their challenges; NAWEC owed ITSC which he said was a subsidiary to Islamic Development Bank (IDB), ING Bank in Switzerland; that in that meeting, they agreed on a set of recommendations to restructure NAWEC’s dept; that in November 2014, as the then Governor, he requested for the settling of debts and NAWEC requested the former Government to waive the loans.
Colley testified that he was concerned with the number of loans taken by NAWEC from Commercial Banks; that the debts were huge and they approached the office of the former president. He said he instructed the Finance Department to look into the situation to know the Banks that were involved.
He said his idea at the time was that NAWEC’s debt should be restructured; that they consulted Euro Africa Group as to why they were not paying the Commercial Banks, who in turn replied that NAWEC was not paying them.
Colley further testified that they should look into the debt owed to Euro Africa by NAWEC; that he was concerned about the exposure of EcoBank to the tune of $12,000,000 by NAWEC; that Standard Chartered Bank was also exposed to the tune of $ 8,000,000, and Trust Bank was also exposed. He testified that the next stage was to invite the Minister who agreed and said steps should be taken and they invited some Commercial Banks. He further stated that they agreed to set up a bond to allow NAWEC to settle the debts
Colley said there had to be an agreement between NAWEC and Euro Africa Group, indicating that the role of CBG, was to sign to provide services in terms of the outstanding balance.
He told the Commission that NAWEC defaulted and he was invited by Kebba Touray, former Minister of Finance in his office, and was told that TOSTA Oil Trading, had threatened to sue Government by way of Euro Africa, using strategic stock at the depot; that they understood the stock was utilized by Euro Africa when there was a threat from the office of the former president that there must be a supply of fuel, and this was confirmed by NAWEC.
He told the Commission that when there were shortages, it was said that the stock should be used and was supplied to NAWEC; that the facility was used as collateral, but he did not see the agreement document; that he received a letter from the office of the former president to travel to Switzerland, to negotiate with TOSTA on a $24,000,000 liability.
Among the delegation, he recalled Mr. Edward Graham, former Managing Director of SSHFC, former Managing Director of NAWEC and the former Finance Minister Kebba Touray, whom he said failed to travel with them; that the delegation negotiated on behalf of the former Government, noting that negotiating with TOSTA was better than going to Court.
Colley further stated that TOSTA was charging an interest of 6% but also gave a discount of $6, 000, 000, and that TOSTA finally settled for $18,000,000.
When asked why they were negotiating on behalf of the former Government, he responded that SSHFC was the major shareholder of Gam Petroleum, as far as the former Government was concerned; that he did not see any collateral for the use of Gam Petroleum facility as a strategic stock; that they did not supervise the Commercial Banks on yearly basis, although they had a supervision department.
At this juncture, it was put to him that NAWEC is owned by Government and that Government should not let NAWEC to inject money with interest and he responded in agreement.
Counsel Bensouda further told him that if Euro Africa Group owes the Commercial Banks which they could not afford to pay, tax payers’ money should not be used to settle Euro Africa Group loans. The statements from the former Governor were admitted as exhibits.
Colley revealed that the Central Bank gave the former Government the sum of $18,000,000, to settle TOSTA.
At this juncture, Commissioner Saine asked him why the former Government stepped in to save Euro Africa Group and he replied that he was concerned and his colleagues were equally concerned, but he felt it prudent to participate in the transaction.
According to him, CBG was not required to assess the loan that was given to NAWEC, because of the national interest and if Euro Africa was not going beyond the limit, they should also go ahead. However, Counsel Bensouda put it to him that she found it difficult to appreciate when the former Governor said it was because of national interest and there was no limit on NAWEC lending.
Hearing continues today, Thursday.