By Mamadou Dem
Sheriff Sawaneh, Managing Director of Competence Company and Protein Production, yesterday told the Janneh Commission of Enquiry that refurbishments and construction projects awarded to his Company by the office of the former President, was because of his company’s quality service but not because he had connections to that office.
Mr Sawaneh was summoned to explain the numerous contracts he received from the office of the former president as Contractor and among the contracts he benefited from, where the renovation of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Renovation of the Cabinet Room, Construction of the Republican National Guards Office (RNG) formerly Medical and Health Headquarters, Battery Flat Apartments at State House and the Residence of the former president.
According to him, the sum of D245,000.00 was for the payment and renovation of the Cabinet Room while D9,996, 360.00 was for the renovation of Battery Flat Apartments at State House and D13, 887,729.00 was for the Construction of the Republican National Guards quarters where General Sulayman Badjie had his office.
According to the witness, his Company was incorporated in 2004 and he holds 45% share while his partner, Philip Mathew Collins, owns 51%; that Protein Product and Food Company seized operations 7-8 years ago.
At that juncture, numerous documents relating to the company, namely Business Registration Certificate, Memorandum of Association and Certificate of Incorporation, were tendered and admitted as exhibits.
Mr. Sawneh however said they registered four companies but so far only Competence Company is operating. When Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda, asked whether that was the only Company they had, the witness responded that they registered four Companies in the Gambia and they were Competence Company, General Council and Services, Protein Product and Food Company. He said he couldn’t remember the name of the fourth Company.
According to him, Protein Product and Food Company was involved in the processing of peanuts and exporting them to the United Kingdom; that they were operating around the Denton Bridge but the Company was later liquidated.
On how many accounts his Company possessed, the witness said they have bank statements at the Arab Gambian Islamic Bank, Zenith Bank, Trust Bank Gambia Limited, Guaranty Trust Bank and First International Bank respectively and he does business with some of these accounts including his personal account at Zenith Bank.
The witness further revealed that the sum of D200,000.00 could be the retention of contract regarding the cabinet room. On whether he conducted any private contract for the ex-president, he responded in the affirmative; that he renovated a three- storey building for the ex-president in Kanilai at a tune of D4.5 Million and the fencing of Farato Farm. He said he was also contracted by GAMWORKS for the construction of a market in Bwiam, noting that his Company is classified under class B contract but couldn’t show the Commission a document identifying the Company as such.
On the payment of D3, 421,462.00 from the International Gateway Account, he said he thought it was an advance payment for the renovation of the Justice Department but he was however asked to provide the Commission with the entire list of contracts and payments awarded to him by the office of the former president. He was further tasked to furnish the Commission with his Company’s tax clearance certificate.
Earlier, the witness testified that he has never bided for any contract with the office of the former president because of the quality of his work; that this was why contracts were awarded to him without bidding for them but it was not because he had connections at the office of the former president.
Mr. Abdoulie Jallow, Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Finance who reappeared, was summoned in connection to the Mahindra Tractors. According to him, $5,800,000.00 was withdrawn from the total loan and the loan will be mature in 20 years, with interest.
He was however asked to bring complete documents for the transactions and loan agreement between The Gambian and Indian Governments. He is expected to reappear on Thursday and he promised to find out whether the said loan was ratified by the National Assembly.
Next to reappear was Mr. Tony Ghattas, former Managing Director of APAM Mining Company, who tendered the management plan of APAM as well as share transfers of GHATSON Company Limited.
Commission Counsel, Mrs. Bensouda asked Mr. Ghattas to explain the payment made to one Mr. Mbacke in Senegal, amounting to €1,065,000.00 which Ghattas said was in connection with the purchase of a Machine relating to mining activities and the said sum was transferred from Guaranty Trust Bank.
According to him, the sum of $1,098,000.00 was the total transaction for a machine use for mining in Sanyang South and at the time of signing the agreement for APAM, the equipment was not delivered but Counsel intimated to him as per the agreement, that the equipment was already in the Gambia. But Ghattas refuted this.
Mr. Ghattas disclosed that he still does business in Senegal but he’s not involved in the Mining of Heavy Mineral Concentrate (HMC); that the sum of $150,000.00 stated in a Profoma invoice was paid in cash to a Chinese Mining Company base in China.
At that juncture, Counsel told the witness that he was not telling the truth to the Commission but Ghattas insisted that he was telling the truth. Thereafter, Memorandum and Article of Association for Sanghai Company was admitted as exhibits.
Mr. Ghattas further testified that he can’t remember the names of the Chinese staff that were working on the ground at the mining sites who were receiving the sum of $2,500.00 as monthly salary. He was quick to say that he has the list of the staff which he can provide to the Commission.
It was further put to the witness that the outsourcing agreement did not apply to APAM but the witness insisted.
Sitting continues today.