By Mamadou Dem
Mr. Abdoulie Tambadou, the Managing Director of the Gambia Ports Authority, yesterday disclosed to the Janneh Commission of Enquiry probing into the Financial Dealings and assets of the former President, his families and close associates, that the GNPC, YDE & KFF owed them millions of dalasi.
Mr. Tambadou testified that he joined the Gambia Ports Authority in 1989 as an accounts clerk and rose through various ranks key among them, the director of finance and the current position he is holding.
On the Youth Development Enterprise (YDE), he confirmed that they used to have vessels in the name of the Enterprise which was headed or chaired by the late Baba Jobe; that the connection between the Enterprise and the then President was, they used to receive letters in the name of Baba Jobe, State House.
He however said due to the time and dissolution of the enterprise as well as the legal tussle against the enterprise, all the documents relating to YDE were tendered in court; but that the total debt owed to GPA by YDE, is D16, 000,000.00
The chartered accountant further informed Commissioners that there was a directive from the office of the then president for GPA to transport items belonging to GNPC and Barajali Ferry was used for the services; that later the ferry was damaged by GNPC and the company failed to compensate the damages claimed by the GPA amounting to D16, 500,000.00.
When asked whether GPA took any legal action against GNPC for failure to compensate them, he responded that the managing director at the time did not take any legal action. He revealed that there was also transfer of properties owned by GPA to three companies namely Gamveg, Shyben A Madi & Sons and EURO Africa Group.
According to him, Gamveg is related to Euro Africa Group and directives from the office of the then president ordered for them to handover GPA tanks to Gamveg which he said was in November, 2005 and that the negotiation was led by one Amadou Samba. He further disclosed that Gamveg Company was involved in the processing of groundnut oil and the company was using their tank at the time of operation and the leased agreement was signed by Mr. Samba.
Mr. Tambadou recalled that at the time of his return as the managing director in March 2017, several letters were written to Gamveg Company regarding the agreement but the company never responded to their letters necessitating them to write to the Ministry of Justice for legal advice.
With regards to Shyben A Madi & Sons, Mr Tambadou said in 2011, they received a letter from the Ministry of Lands requesting for the handing over of their land to Shyben A Madi & Sons for a rent free period of 4 years; that the office of the then president was importing sugar and the land occupied by the company was used for the storage of sugar. According to Mr Tambadou, the claim is against the Kanilai Family Farm for failure to pay the rent amounting to D2, 700,000.00 for the period of 4 years.
The claim against the Euro Africa Group, according to the Managing Director of GPA, was that the company failed to honour the lease agreement from the year 2008-2016 after they were asked by the office of the then president to lease one of their properties and shares to the Euro Africa Group, amounting to D10, 420,103.28. Further claim by the GPA, he said was the sum of D383, 365.00 owned by the companies of the former president for the crossing services at the Barra – Banjul terminal.
Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda, applied to tender all the documents indicating debts owed to the GPA which were accordingly admitted and marked as exhibits by the Commission.
Next to appear was the managing director of the Gambia Milling Corporation, Christophe Bardy.
Mr. Bardy told the Commission that the registered name of the Company is Gambia Milling Corporation and the directors of the company are Muhammad Bazzi, Fadia George Mazagi and David Dannov. According to Mr Bardy, Premium Investment Group has 50% shares in the company whilst the other 50% is owned by a Company in the USA.
He said the land occupied at the Navy belongs to the GMC after a lease agreement between government which was in May 2013 and the parties were the Ministry of Lands and his Company.
Mr Bardy recalled that because of the market potential, they decided to invest in the Gambia as in Sierra Leone and other countries and the amount of money proposed for the investment at the time was D1, 000,000.00
He lamented that the then government had promised to protect them and allocate them land which is called Navy land after his Company promised to invest a billion dalasi again.
Mr. Bardy however said he did not have any documents at that point to show the commission how his company acquired the land as well as who the mediator for the land acquisition was.
However, he requested for time to enable him to go through their achieve to know how the company acquired the said land as well as other relevant documents related to the company with regard to the notice of summon.
Mr. Bolaji Yusuuf of Guaranty Trust Bank who stepped in for the Managing Director, gave evidence on the mobilization account.
He said D422, 000,000.00 was deposited into the account. He said the first withdrawal was D5, 000,000.00 while the second withdrawal was D50, 000,000.00.
Next to testify was Fadia George Mazagi, Managing Director Euro Africa Group and he confirmed to the Commission that Global Trading Limited received from the Central Bank of the Gambia, the sum of €1,000,000 and €720,000 respectively.
According to him the sum of One million Euros paid to their company by CBG, was for the purchase of an Aircraft, 757 for the then Government; that prior to ending negotiations for the purchase of the aircraft, it was already sold.
Mr. Mazagi disclosed that Kanilai Family Farm owed Global Trading the sum of €1,354,000 which was in respect of avian water supply, Hyundai vehicles and coach buses and there was a letter authored by Dr. Njogu L Bah, former Secretary General instructing them to set off the one million euro which was meant for the purchase of the aircraft to Kanilai Family farm.
He however said he did not have the letter with him. “How could you set off debts owed by a private company to public funds?” Mrs. Bensouda quizzed. “This was the instruction we received,” said the witness noting that he did investigate where the money was coming from.
At that juncture, commercial invoices from Global Trading showing payments of One million Euro from State Aircraft Accounts as well as bill of lading of the said vehicles, were admitted as exhibits.
The witness informed the Commission that there was an incident in their office and they lost the letter authored by Njogu Bah. “I am not promising to avail the Commission with the letter but I will endeavor to find out,” said the witness.
“We want a copy or original of that letter,” Commissioner Saine insisted and further asked: “Was there any possibility that Kanilai Family Farm (KFF) was not state owned?” The witness said everything that was vouchered was in the name of KFF; that they are tax exempted by the Ministry of Finance and the Gambia Revenue Authority because the company is of international standard. He said it is correct that they were awarded numerous contracts without tender but this he said was due to relationship Mr. Muhammed Bazi had with the former President.
At that juncture, one of the Commissioners requested for Mr. Mazagi to furnish them with Global Trading Certificate of Registration.
Commissioner Saine told the witness that there was no distrust between their company and the former government and the cordial relation was so smooth that they kept on getting contracts upon contracts but the witness revealed that it was an agreement Mr. Bazi had with Yahya Jammeh.
Counsel Bensouda at that point told the witness that it has been discovered that all invoices were addressed to KFF and there were importations of vegetables and oil which the then government has no interest. “We were made to understand that this was to be distributed to the public and we were made to understand that KFF is a branch of the government,” said Mazagi.
Mr. Abdoulie Jallow, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance testified that he is not aware of an Appropriation Account which was closed and replaced by a Mobilisation Account; that he has no knowledge of the opening of a State Aircraft Account as he was not the PS at the time. However, he told Commissioners that the Special Security Account was opened purposely for operations at the office of the then president especially when it comes to his travel expenses.
He said the source of funding from this account is derived from the consolidated revenue fund and as PS he does not know any law or statue authorising the then President to become signatory to an account or accounts.
On the International Gateway Account, Mr. Jallow disclosed that the said account was opened based on request from the office of the former President for proceeds from GAMTEL International Gateway to be deposited into. He however confirmed that GAMTEL is the rightful institution to manage such funds.
“If instructions are from office of the former President, they are automatically carried out and we cannot open an account if we are not authorized by the Minister,” he revealed.
When asked by Counsel whether he had anything to justify that, he responded that usually there are no minutes from the minister but he is always aware of the opening of accounts. Ministers he said, are not supposed to be signatories to government accounts but instead it should be the accounting officers among others.
Mr. Momodou Lamin Bah, Accountant General reappeared to explain the accounts opened by his office. He said at the time of opening the International Gateway Account he wasn’t at the said position and the opening of accounts was approved by the then Ministry of Finance. He said upon approval by the said ministry, the Accountant General’s office would communicate to CBG.
At that juncture Mr. Bah told the Commission that he needed to confirm in their records to see whether there was any communication between his office and Central Bank; that the then president cannot be a signatory to a consolidated revenue account but can become signatory to special account upon approval by the National Assembly. According to him the way funds were disbursed from the special security account to the office of the former president, is not in line with best practice and they do not encourage that to happen. He said there is a rule that allows impress but if the amount involved is huge, one can be allowed to open an account which must be retired; but the special security account was not treated as an impress. He finally disclosed that recently, they held a meeting Chaired by Mr. Amadou Sanneh, the new Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, for such issues to be regularized and to keep them tight.
Sessions continues today at a local hotel in Kololi.