By Mamadou Dem
Edward Graham and Muhammed Lamin Gibba, both former Managing Director of the Social Security Housing and Finance Corporation, yesterday appeared before the Janneh Commission of Enquiry to explain the loans that were given to the office of the former President and KGI respectively.
Mr. Graham said he was appointed as Managing Director from October 2010 and his services were terminated in December 2010. He said he was reappointed on the 22nd of August 2012 until the 7th of March 2017; that he cannot remember receiving instructions from the office of the former President between October-December, 2010.
On the D15,000,000.00 loan given by the SSHFC to the office of the former president for the purchase of rams from the Islamic Republic of Mauritania from the National Provident Fund [NPF], he said the request was brought to his office shortly after he assumed office and was busy with balancing the books to enable him know what exactly transpired during his two year absence; that he asked the finance director and deputy director of the corporation to go ahead as usual and comply with the directives emanating from the then Secretary General, Njogu Bah.
According to him, it was explained to them that the rams were to be provided for workers because the price of rams were exorbitant. Responding further, he said: “I was concentrating on issues that transpired in my absence but I always forward directives to the board and I always obtain regulations and it was after I started operations, I discovered that the D15,000,000.00 was not taken to the board of directors for approval,” he said.
On whether the office of the President can be given loan by SSHFC, he responded in the affirmative; that OP is entitled to loans under the investment policy of the Corporation. He said the same policy mandates them to give loans to Government and related institutions as a form of investment; that in this process, you have both the usual and unusual procedures and the said D15,000,000.00 was an unusual procedure because it was a directive from the office of the President.
Mr. Graham further explained that if the usual procedure is applied, then it goes down to the ladder up to the board of directors, which is the governing body and copied to the Ministry of Finance before the final approval is granted, whereas when the unusual procedure is applied, they only write internal memos for approval.
When asked by Commission Counsel Bensouda whether the usual procedure was followed in the disbursement of $4,500,000.00 as loan to the office of the former President for the purchase of an aircraft, he responded in the affirmative and said there was a loan agreement between the two parties. Mr. Graham reiterated that he allowed his deputy and the finance director to go ahead with this loan as he was just a freshman in the system and did not know the previous procedures they applied in his absence.
According to him, the investment policy did not distinguish institutions entitled to loans but they usually enter into an agreement on every loan taken by institutions or parastatals. “The financial situation of the Corporation is clearly stated in the Audit Report and I am not quite sure whether the $4,500,000.00 went through the board of directors but Mr. Amadou Samba was the Chairman of the Board then,” he disclosed.
On the outstanding loan of €200,000.00 to the National Broadcaster (GRTS), he said he was the MD at the time of this transaction but he might be away and the transaction was authorized by the Deputy Managing Director and Director of Finance. However, he said he cannot recall whether it was also channelled through the board of directors; that notwithstanding, he informed the board about these loans.
The former Managing Director of the Corporation said by the time he took over as MD, the debt of the Corporation was D1 billion and notwithstanding, the Corporation continued to invest by giving out loans under the investment policy of the Corporation; that the entities were advised to pay the loan, otherwise it will affect the operations of the Corporation.
Mr. Graham said based on Section 5 of the Corporation Act, the Corporation is partly public and partly private and based on that, the state is the ultimate custodian of the Corporation which has the mandate to protect the interest of the citizens.
He finally opined that he did not see any wrong with regards to the loan given to the office of the then President for the purchase of the Tobaski rams which was in the interest of the workers and that it depended on the office of the then President on how to utilise the funds as intended; that professionally, there is nothing wrong with giving out loan for national interest.
Mr. Graham is expected to reappear next week Monday for continuation.
Mr. Muhammed Lamin Gibba who reappeared in his capacity as the former Managing Director of SSHFC, explained that he was appointed as MD of the Corporation from 3rd May, 2011to August 2012; that he received directives from the office of the former President to pay the sum of D6.4 million dalasi to Amadou Samba for the purchase of a water Tank, after receiving a telephone call from the former President.
When asked by Counsel Bensouda to explain why such payments should be made from the fund which does not belong to Government but to the citizens, Mr. Gibba replied that the payment was made out of fear and he had no choice but to comply with the directives since it was indicated from the OP that it was an urgent need.
He said he was of the view that the water tank belongs to the former President and the fact of the matter was that the request was urgent and the loan will be refunded which was not done. “I did not follow up for the payment of the loan and I did not know who the auditors were at the time the loan was given,” he said
Regarding the loan of D10, 000,000.00 to Kanilai Group International for the purchase of Tobaski rams, Mr. Gibba said it was a verbal directive from the former President who called him on telephone for the disbursement of the said sum.
According to him, when he was the Managing Director of GPA, he used to critically advise the President regarding loans but at some point, the then President was not heeding to his advice and based on this, he was redeployed to SSHFC claiming that he had wished to resign because he was not comfortable with those instructions.
He added that until he left as MD for SSHFC, the loans were not settled and he did not make a follow up arguing that he did not know the reason or reasons he was redeployed to SSHFC and did not ask the former President why he was redeployed.
On the issue of loans granted to NAWEC, he said in June 2011, the sums of $7,900,000.00, $5,000,000.00 and $6,000,000.00 were purposely granted as loans for the provision of heavy fuel which were from the National Provident Fund (NPF).
According to him, this was also a directive from the office of the former President to disburse the said sums to NAWEC, acknowledging that he has no audacity to give loans without referring to the board for approval, since he did not have the courage to discuss with the board for the disbursements of these funds to NAWEC.
The witness recalled that he had summoned meetings with the Director of Finance regarding the impact of the loan on the Corporation but that they had no choice than to comply with the order and make payments. He further told the Commission that he knew that the OP has no say on funds provided to SSHFC neither does he (President) has any say on the management of the Corporation since the funds belong to the Gambian people.
He also acknowledged that he did not tell the office of the former President that loans cannot be given to KGI since the funds belong to the citizens. On issues regarding GPA Barajali ferry, the witness said he could remember that in 2007, they called him to hand over the ferry to the Management of Gam Petroleum (now call GNPC) as soon as possible as it was a directive from the former president; but that his reply was he could not do so unless he hears from the former President himself; that the said ferry was finally handed over to Gam Petroleum but prior to this, he insisted that it had to be in writing and there was a letter to that effect written by one Ebrima Kujabi.
He said subsequently, when Muhammed Bazzi completed his assignment with the ferry, the GPA discovered that the services of the ferry were not rendered and they wrote to Mr. Bazzi asking back the ferry but there was no response from them; that after 3 years, former president Jammeh asked him (Gibba) whether he heard from Bazzi concerning the ferry but he responded to him in the negative. Mr. Jammeh then asked him to value the ferry which he said amounted to D16, 000,000.00 and Jammeh told him that he will engage Bazzi.
Regarding a land given to Gambia Milling Corporation, Counsel Bensouda put it to the witness that after several correspondences between the GPA Management and the Milling Corporation, the office of the former president wrote to say that the land should be given to Milling Corporation and they will be paying royalties to GPA in the sum of D18, 000,000.00, the witness said he was not aware of this; that he had no discussion with Mr. Bazzi except in writing, regarding compensation in respect of the ferry. “I am not aware that the said land was leased to the corporation neither was I consulted on the leasing of the land,” said Gibba.
Sitting resumes on Monday 9th October 2017.