By Mamadou Dem
Contrary to what was said by the current Managing Director of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation Muhammed Manjang, that investment on Ocean Bay hotel was detrimental, his predecessor Edward Graham, yesterday September 10th, told the ‘Janneh’ Commission, investment on the said Hotel was not bad; that rather it was the operation, where tax payers’ money was not put in good use. Graham reappeared in connection to the leasing of Ocean Bay and Sun Beach Hotels, to BP Investment Group. He told the Commission that it was correct that there was a letter from Cordial dated the 13th of August, 2013; that SSHFC’s desire was to get someone who would refurbish the hotel, especially the leaking roof.
After confirming the said letter, he testified that a new client had nothing to do with what happened ten years ago, noting that initially, the sum for the investment was D300,000,000, and eventually rose to D400,000,000.
At this juncture, he was given a document to go through, which he did, and confirmed that he had seen it before; that apart from BPI, there was another Company that offered to lease Ocean Bay Hotel to the tune of D2, 000,000 per annum, but that the offer was rejected.
According to him, they negotiated with BPI when they made some proposals to pay for the leasing of the said Hotel. Another document was given to him to identify, which he did and stated that it was a directive from the Office of the former President, to deal with BPI; that during the first five years, BPI offered €1,000 and continued for the second five years as well as. Graham confirmed that BPI was to deduct €6,000, noting that according to Executive Directives, the hotel would be leased to BPI.
At this juncture, Counsel Musa Batchilly put it to him that Ocean Bay Hotel was purchased to the tune of D45, 000,000, which was confirmed by the witness. However, Lawyer Batchilly said it was not a good deal but Graham challenged that it was indeed, a good return on investment.
Counsel Batchilly further put it to him that the sum of $6,500,000 was spent on Ocean Bay Hotel for renovation; that the leasing of the two Hotels was inspired by the former president through a directive. In response, Graham said this was not to his knowledge. Counsel Batchilly then put it to him that they could have got a better offer to lease Ocean Bay Hotel, and the witness agreed.
At this juncture, SSHFC board resolution was tendered and admitted as exhibit. The witness further confirmed that the board resolution came after the presidential directive.
Lawyer Batchilly also told the witness that after the board meeting, SSHFC wrote to the office of the former president to lease Ocean Bay Hotel, and later got an approval from the said office.
According to Batchilly, after the approval, there was an agreement between SSHFC and BPI, to lease Ocean Bay Hotel. Further putting it to the witness, he said BPI did not seek approval of SSHFC to renovate Ocean Bay Hotel, which was confirmed by the witness.
Further putting it to the witness, Counsel Batchilly said BPI failed to present receipts, invoices and bill of quantities, to show their expenses on the renovation of Ocean Bay Hotel.
At this juncture, a correspondence written by BPI was tendered and admitted as exhibit. Counsel Batchilly told the witness that in 2011 and 2012, there was an Executive Directive to purchase Sun Beach Hotel for $5,900,000. Again, a letter from the office of the former president authorizing the sale of Sun Beach Hotel was tendered and admitted as exhibit.
At this point, Counsel Batchilly put it to the witness that the former president influenced the leasing of Sun Beach Hotel to BPI, which was confirmed by Graham.
The witness disclosed to the Commission that the investment on Ocean Bay Hotel was not bad, but it was the mode of operation where tax payers’ money was not put in good use.
Sittings continue today.