By Mamadou Dem
The former Minister of Finance Kebba S Touray, yesterday 23rd October 2017, appeared before the ‘Janneh’ Commission to explain the Joint Venture Agreement between The Gambia Government and Gallie Holding Company, for the purchase of two ferries, Aljamdou and Kansala as well as the opening of the account purposely for the ferries, which he was a signatory to.
Touray was summoned based on his capacity as the former Gambian ambassador to Spain where he happened to be part of the delegation that went to inspect the said ferries in Greece, as part of the Joint Venture Agreement before the ferries were bought.
He was summoned along with the Managing Directors of the Gambia Ferry Services, Hali Abdoulie Gai and AbdoulieTambadou, as well as former Secretary General MomodouSabally, who all gave evidence on the matter relating to the purchase of the ferries.
Explaining his role with regard to the ferries, Mr Touray said while he was serving as ambassador in Spain and also overseeing Greece, he was informed by his office, to join the delegation to Greece for the inspection of the ferries, which was part of the Joint Venture Agreement between Gambia Government and the Gallie Holding Company Ltd in Greece.
He said the Joint Venture Agreement was agreed and signed on how the mode of payment should be made and that there was agreement for a payment to be made into an account in Greece, before disbursement of funds and that was the time the issue of signatories to the account came about.
When asked by Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda, on what clauses in the Joint Venture Agreement he relied on after he was shown the Joint Agreement, Mr Touray said he needed time to go through it in order to refresh his mind.
When quizzed again to explain to the Commission how many occasions the delegation went to Greece pertaining to the purchase of the ferries as part of the agreement, Mr Touray who was also one time the Minister of Trade, replied that the first visit was to sign the Joint Venture Agreement which comprised GPA official, representatives from the Ministry of Justice and office of the president, which were the same representatives for the second trip.
Mr. Touray said he believe the agreement was reported as part of his annual report as mandated, noting that the agreement included the maintenance of the ferries, opening of an account but he believes that the account was closed because it was meant for that project.
He further informed the Commission that he believes there were documents regarding the operation of the account adding that the payment plan was also discussed during a meeting with partners in Greece, which included the maintenance of the ferries among others.
Mr. Touray further testified that he believes the records with regard to the Joint Venture Agreement will be with the officials of GPA, SSHFC and the Ministry of Finance and was quick to add that he was made to understand that the ferries were not able to operate upon arrival in the country.
He finally testified that he was not in the position to determine the suitability of the ferries for Gambian waters since he is not an expert in that area, adding that the technical experts were part of the delegation that went to Greece.
Next to appear before the Commission was Hali Abdoulie Gai, the Managing Director of the Ferry Services, who also gave evidence on the Joint Venture Agreement.
Mr Gai said the ferries were normal but the manner and the way they were handled was wrong for the fact that the ferries have a good capacity that can carry eighty vehicles which is huge revenue for the state.
According to him , he was about to be blackmailed by the former regime along with AbdoulieTambadou, to be witnesses in the arbitration between Government and the Gallie Holding Company and were forced to sign the Joint Venture Agreement.
Asked why he agreed to the 20% payment as part of the agreement, he replied that he believes it was a good investment and that the Ferries were in good condition at the time; but that because of the manner they were handled was wrong.
Mr. Gai also explained that as the officer in charge of the ferries at the time, he felt that there was need for strategy for the deployment of staff but to his dismay he was demoted to Director of Operations because there was report that he was against a certain ethnic group.
According to Mr Gai, there was a lot of infighting at the GPA at the time and in 2015 he was served with a dismissal letter from the Personnel Management Office and was later prosecuted.
When asked by Commissioner Saine why he did not challenge the PMO for his dismissal since he was not a civil servant and his dismissal could have been done by the GPA board, he replied that he knew the PMO has no right to dismiss him but because of the environment at the time, he could not for the fear that he might be sent to jail by a kangaroo court and a bias judge who will trample on his right even if he was right.
Documents and correspondences relating to the Joint Venture Agreement, construction of slipways and court settlement between the former Attorney General and Hali Abdoulie Gai, were admitted as exhibits.
AbdoulieTambadou the Managing Director testified that the GPA participation in the Joint Venture Agreement was discussed by the board and they were asked to contribute 1.175 million Euros; that they always sought approval from the office of the president before disbursement of funds.
According to Mr. Tambadou, the account detail was brought to the GPA by Hali Abdoulie Gai who was part of the delegation that went to Greece but did not see any statement of the account and how disbursement was made into the account; that as a GPA official they expected the signatories to the account to give account of payments into the said account allocated for the purchase of the ferries.
MomodouSabally, the former Secretary General also testified on the same matter while the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Local Government and Lands, gave evidence on matters relating to the lease of a piece of land to the Gambia Milling Corporation.
Sessions continue today.