By Mamadou Dem
Evidence before the ‘Janneh’ Commission by the former Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service Dr. Njogu Bah, yesterday revealed that the former president, Yahya Jammeh, solicited bribes from MGI Telecom Company for the award of contracts.
Mr. Bah reappeared in connection to the Gamtel Gateway contracts and disclosed that the former head of state requested the sum of $10,000,000 prior to entrusting them with the management and supervision of the Gamtel Gateway.
During his testimony, Counsel Bensouda asked him to confirm his signature on some of the payments from the Gamtel Gateway account in Central Bank. He confirmed that he signed the contract between ‘Tell’ and Gamtel, for the management of the International Gateway; that they had a meeting with Ali Charara and the former president instructed him to sign the contract, further stating that he could not remember who was managing the gateway prior to ‘Tell’ Company.
According to him, during their meeting, Mr. Charara was with another man who was based in France; that the time ‘Spectrum’ was signing the contract, he was then a junior officer at the office of the former president.
On how Mr. Charara met the former president, he said Mr. Muhammed Bazzi introduced him and the former president told him that the contract was a done deal; that he did not receive incentives for signing of the contract. He also testified that there was at some point a problem between the former president and Mr. Charara.
According to him, the former president was presented with a brand new Range Rover by Mr. Charara when ‘Tell’ Company was operating, noting that in 2013, they had a Permanent Secretaries’ retreat at Kanilai and he was approached by the Managing Director of Gamtel, Bakary Sanyang, who informed him that there were people (MGI) who have expressed interest in managing the Gamtel Gateway but he responded to him that the gateway was already contracted to ‘Tell’; that Sanyang however told him he had to look at the best Company but he (Bah) indicated to him to write to the former president for request, which he said Sanyang did before they might think that he was not interested and was blocking them; that the former president was interested in what they could offer.
The former Secretary General revealed that soon after he was relieved of his duties, he heard that a contract was signed with MGI and the said contract was signed by the former Managing Director of Gamtel in Switzerland; that it was alleged that Saul Badjie and Mr. Sanyang benefited from this contract.
According to the former civil service boss, the former president instructed him to ask MGI whether they could offer to him (Jammeh) the sum of $10,000,000 when MGI intended to offer $2,000,000 which the former president was reluctant to accept; that the $10,000,000 was not for Gamcel.
On the purchase of Pickups by the former president, he confirmed that the former head of state bought 20 of them amounting to $25,000,000 from the United States; that he did not witness the delivery of the cars. He said the scholarships awarded to American ladies to pursue university courses were those who participated in the Miss Black Beauty Pageant in The Gambia; that they had series of applications from Gambian students for sponsorship but the former president opted to sponsor those American girls instead; that his signature on the directives for the disbursement of funds from the Gamtel Gateway account, was because he had no choice but to comply.
Documents authorised by the witness for the disbursement of funds from the said account at the Central Bank, were admitted as exhibit.
Mr. Alagie Abdoulie Kebbeh, a telecom engineer and consultant who was also a member of the taskforce appointed by the former President on the Gamtel/Gamcel Gateway, yesterday appeared before the ‘Janneh’ Commission in connection to gateway contracts.
Testifying before the Commission, he said prior to becoming a consultant, he worked in the public service from 1968-1995; that he was appointed member of the taskforce to prepare a report on the findings of the Gamtel Gateway and that Mr. Bakary Njie was the Chairman of the said taskforce.
He told the Commission that he had the report on the taskforce covering 2006-2016 regarding the management of the International Gateway; that during the course of their investigations, they invited the Chairman of MGI and that they also dealt with financial matters relating to the office of the former president which was also compiled in the report.
The ICT final report of 2017 prepared by the taskforce was tendered and admitted as exhibit. When asked by Counsel to explain from their report the sum of $449,891,688 paid from the proceeds of Gamtel International Gateway in 2006, out of which Gamtel received only the sum of $77,859.40, he said they knew all this during their findings through the MGI report and Central Bank records as well.
According to him, MGI was not paying tax at the time, despite the sum of $66,340,347 they generated as their net profit as indicated in their report; that the revenue they generated in 2006 amounted to $144,000,000.
Mr. Kebbeh disclosed that MGI was also involved in projects which were also captured in their report and outlined the various projects to the Commission such as E. Government, Fraud protection, Roaming, Gamtel Billing System and Intelligence Management Centre among others; that the taskforce report also made analyses of the MGI activities as well as their financial transactions.
According to the telecom engineer, the revenue from the Gateway was just applied but there was no record to that effect, noting that only the former MD, Bakary Njie, could be in a better position to explain.
The witness claimed that MGI was directly dealing with the former president and neither the management of Gamtel/Gamcel knew anything about MGI; that both Companies did not have the record of the MGI contract agreement; that the cost of Gateway switches of the first project was over $3,000,000.
According to him, Gamtel/Gamcel did not have documentation on the switches; that they did not know how the billing platform was procured and spent over $11,000,000 for the installation of the billing system without tender.
The consultant however told the Commission that he could not tell how much money was generated from the Gateway; that MGI was the only Company involved in the installations of some of their gadgets and the local GSM operators were losing revenue; that the management and staff of Gamtel/Gamcel were not even allowed to have access to the switches.
Mr. Kebbeh further told the Commission that while executing their duties, they requested MGI to furnish them with a breakdown of expenses; that it was discovered that from June 2014, to December 2016, MGI deducted the sum of $24 million which was on a monthly payment of $800,000 which they claimed, was for services.
According to him, there were two MGIs and the first one which was also in charge of the management of Gamtel Gateway, was incorporated in Switzerland, while the one registered in The Gambia, was in charge of the maintenance.
He further revealed that there was a contract between Gamtel and the National Assembly but Gamtel subcontracted the Multimedia Company for the installation of gadgets at the National Assembly.
Documents relating to the contracts and gateway traffic were tendered and admitted as exhibits.
Earlier, Mr. Cherno Camara, Senior Commercial Manager at Gamtel, testified in relation to Gamtel Gateway contracts. He told Commissioners that he served in the said portfolio for 2 years and was also the Manager for Settlement.
According to him, their department was responsible for the Management of the International Gateway before it was contracted to foreign Companies or operators. Upon perusal of documents shown to him by Counsel, he acknowledged that most of the documents were from their department.
On how they accessed traffic, he said they were given access to a billing platform by Global Voice, so as to ascertain as to how much Gamtel was generating from the Gateway; that they were able to verify information given to them.
On the operation of System 1, he said their responsibility was to provide daily statistics to the Manager, further stating that they did not calculate how much Gamtel should be paid neither did they have access to how much Gamtel should be paid.
He however said when ‘Tell’ was contracted with the management of the Gateway, they had access to the billing platform, but proceeds received were transferred to the Central Bank when Gamtel has taken over the management of the Gateway.
Hearing continues today.