By Mamadou Dem
Alhagie Jabang, former Finance Manager at Gam Petroleum, on the 27th July 2018, appeared before the ‘Janneh’ Commission. Jabang testified that he did not have the power to single-handedly waive a loan amounting to D20,000,000 owed by Eagle Company.
Jabang was summoned in connection to donations made to the former president and the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) respectively. He told the Commission that he worked for the said Company from June 2015 to November 2015, as Finance Manager; that he took over from the Finance Manager of Eagle Company, Wael Saade.
According to him, the Euro Africa Group was managing the accounts of Gam Petroleum and he asked certain questions in order to acquaint himself with the finances of the institution; that he asked whether they had a budget among others, but they replied in the negative; that he went to find out from Fadi Mazegi, because the initial plan was for him to work with the Euro Africa Finance Department for two weeks.
Jabang disclosed to Commissioners that instead of working with Euro Africa Group for two weeks, he decided to go to the Mandinary depot and started work, and used the 31st March 2015 closing balance. He said a trial balance was submitted to the auditors and it was not long when the audit was opened.
At this juncture, he confirmed to Commissioners that he made a statement to the investigators but could not sign it; that he was able to sign it when he was giving evidence. The statement dated 14th December, 2015, was shown to him, which he confirmed and was subsequently tendered and admitted in evidence.
The former Finance Manager said he was not specifically handed anything as an inventory; that when he went through a list, he discovered that there was plant and machinery but this was a bit complex for him, because he could not identify some of the items listed; that on the side of equipment, 75 computers were mentioned in the list but he could not trace them after he tried to find out their whereabouts; that he was told that Manhat was in charge and had left the country; that they could not also see the barge mentioned in the list, including a tug and mooring boat; that he asked about the tools amounting to D42, 000,000 but no one could tell him what the tools were.
On the dolphin accounting system, Jabang revealed that this was the accounting system used by the Euro Africa Group, to manage Gam Petroleum accounts; that he was not given a standalone system to manage Gam Petroleum.
It was then put to him by Counsel Bensouda, that there was a discrepancy of over D21,000,000. In response, Jabang said he agreed with Wael Saade. When told by counsel that he was supposed to sign a reconciliation on the 19th of August 2017, Jabang said he signed the reconciliation with Euro Africa Group.
According to him, while he was monitoring the account, he discovered that the sum of D15,000,000 was the difference and called the attention of the General Manager and the board; but that no decision was reached. Jabang intimated to Commissioners that he told the General Manager that the situation needed to be addressed; that this was not done till the appointment of a new board. He said he had several meetings with Eagle regarding the D15,000,000 but they never complied and the General Manager of Eagle would refer him to Saade, who told him that if they go by the exchange rate, it would not be favorable to them; that the matter had been going on for long until there was a change, further noting that he even suggested for a legal action to be instituted against Eagle. Jabang said on the 31st March 2017, auditors came but the reconciliation between Gam Petroleum and Eagle was not done; that the matter was brought to the attention of the new board.
The witness further testified that he went to the Eagle Office to do the reconciliation and mentioned the differences owed by Eagle but they said they would not pay, based on the reconciliation. At this Juncture, Jabang reacted that he did not have the power to single-handedly waive the sum of D20, 000,000 owed by Eagle. ‘‘I did not have the capacity to waive,’’ he reiterated. According to him, this was why he even refused to review, and at the same time, authorize for payments.
On the donation to the NIA and the former ruling party APRC, Jabang said he could recall that just before the 2016 elections, the General Manager of Gam Petroleum called him in his office and told him that the election was coming and that they should do something for the ‘big man’; that he asked the General Manager whether he spoke to the board about it but he responded in the negative; that he told the General Manager that the money did not belong to them. Jabang disclosed that initially, the GM proposed for the sum of D10,000,000 to be given to the former president and his party, but he (Jabang) did not agree; that the GM said he would make it D5,000,000 and when they went to the board, only one board member questioned the donation of the said sum; but that the GM shifted and said that it was the Finance Manager (Jabang), who included it in the budget; that the board Chairperson Edward Graham, told him that whatever balance they had, they should pay it to the former president; that he told him to give him an authorization.
According to Jabang, they were told that they were going to the office of the Vice President but ended up going to General Saul Badjies office; that they prepared a cheque in the name of APRC but were later told by the then Director of NIA, that it should be in cash; that the former director of NIA Yankuba Badjie, accompanied them to Saul Badjie’s office where they handed the money.
He further adduced that the General Manger was the interface between Gam Petroleum officials and Gen. Badjie; that he was instructed by the GM to give out the donations; that he informed the board that the GM should have a limit in giving out funds; that APRC militants would come to the office of the GM including some governors as well. Jabang revealed that the GM told him that whenever he authorize payments, he would not comply to effect them; that he responded to the GM that if there were any discrepancies, Jabang as Finance Officer, would be responsible; that when the matter was brought before the Board Chairperson, he told him that so long as the GM approves, he should go ahead with the payments.
Counsel Bensouda at this juncture, reminded the witness that numerous donations were made to the APRC, prior to the 2016 elections.
Under cross-examination by Counsel Victoria Andrews, it was put to him that Saihou Drammeh of Gam Petroleum, confirmed before the Commission that the boat was with Gam Petroleum.
In response, Jabang told the Commission that he enquired but no one told him where the boat was. It was again put to him that he refused a proper handing over with Eagle, and he responded that this was not correct; that he was the one following them to hand over, instead. Jabang disclosed that he used to attend board meetings.
At this juncture, a document dated 20th June 2015, indicating board meetings, was read to him. Jabang said that he wondered what records he failed to collect, noting further that as at 1st March 2015, he collected the financial reports.
Earlier, the former Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Jammeh Foundation for Peace (JFP), Sameena Azad, testified in connection to the JFP accounts. Prior to going into details of the subject matter, she decided to put off the microphone because she did not want to reveal her UK address in public; that she did not have a Gambian address.
Commission Chairperson Sourahata Jannneh, indicated to her that they do not allow witnesses to talk without the microphone. He however allowed her to write her address on a piece of paper and submitted it to the lead Counsel, Amie Bensouda.
Azad told Commissioners that she became Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for a brief period; that her purpose in the country was to help the Gambian people; that she did not apply for the position accorded to her by the office of the former president.
Her letter of appointment in 2014 was tendered and admitted in evidence. According to her, in 2013, she brought in some investors for certain projects but could not recall how long she worked for JFP; that when she was deputy director, one Dominic Jammeh was the Executive Director, and confirmed that she ceased working for JFP in 2017.
At this juncture, the Commission adjourned sittings sine die (indefinitely) and the Chairperson said notices would be issued as to when the Commission will resume.