By Mamadou Dem
“GAMICO license was Terminated and handed Over to APAM based on directives,” the Geological Department Director told Senior Counsel Janneh, Chairman of the Commission of enquiry set up by government to probe into the assets and financial dealings of former president Jammeh and his associates.
The Director of Geological Department, Abdoulie M Cham, further told Commissioners yesterday, that the Mining License granted to GAMICO, was terminated and handed over to a similar company based on Presidential directives. According to Mr. Cham, APAM has an outstanding fee for royalties amounting to D4,341,235.00 including surface, training and institutional fees, for the period 2013 – 2017.
He however recalled that GAMICO paid royalty fees of D137, 407,338.48 between the years 2009-2014 and this was paid to the account of the Central Bank while D20, 000.00 was paid by APAM as license fee.
The total outstanding balance owed by APAM according to Mr Cham was D8, 120,885 which was equivalent to $460,990. He said between 2009 and 2014, the company was mining heavy mineral and some of the activities were not accounted for by his department.
The geological department’s boss adduced that the role of his department is to monitor the activities of mining companies after being issued with a license. He said the company (GAMICO) was obliged to comply with the agreement.
Mr. Cham further testified that after the termination of GAMICO’s license, he was not happy with the manner things were conducted as there were procedures to be followed in the process of mining. He said after a meeting with his staff at the department, he was sacked the following day. “I was reinstated in 2012 as Director and that was the time I met GAMICO staff,” said the witness.
He said there was a time when the company shipped hundred and nineteen containers and they were ordered to stop the company from exporting and consequently the containers were taken back to the site. He also testified that they received a letter from the office of then President about the change of management in GAMICO. Following that, there was a directive from the office of the then president which was implemented immediately and they held meeting with defunct NIA officials, including General Sulayman Badjie, which finally led to the handing over of management.
Following a change of management, shares were transferred and 50% of Muhammed Bazi’s share, was transferred to APA; that they later realized GAMICO’s business registration and license was not renewed for years. “GAMICO license was terminated and handed over to APAM based on directives. There was nothing on paper for the transfer of 50% share from GAMICO to government and the operational staff we maintained were not maintained by GAMICO,” said Cham.
At that juncture, Commission Counsel, Amie Bensouda, intimated to the witness that it was their responsibility as government officials to manage the company, given that 50% shares were transferred to Mr. Bazi.
With regards to the Construction or building of Sambuyaa Access Road, Mr. Cham testified that the road was built by a company because of the importance attached to quarry and mining sites; adding that the said road was built from collections made out from the quarry but prior to awarding the contract to a company, they subjected it to tender.
“Did you have any payroll for APAM staff indicating the type of salaries you pay?” quizzed counsel. “Yes,” replied Cham.
“I do have documents showing that we benefited from $700,000.00 from APAM, for the capacity building of our staff. Out of the nine staff that were trained, seven were sent to China,” he revealed.
At that juncture, Commission Counsel Bensouda applied to tender documents from the Geological Department for the years 2008 to 2016 and were admitted as exhibits. This included the payroll of APAM Staff and a letter from the National Roads Authority (NRA) respectively.
“Have you discovered what was mined in Upper River Region (URR)?” quizzed Commission Counsel Bensouda. “No. Because no report came to our office as required,” replied Mr. Cham; adding that they had samples from some Gambians and they wanted to visit the site with APAM but that did not materialize; that after conducting their investigations, they had a report which is yet to be published. He however said that this report will shed light on the issue.
“Are you saying that there are no expertise that can determine what was mined in URR?, quizzed Commissioner Saine. “We were supposed to go for a visit at the site but it couldn’t materialize. We required APAM to come up with a report because they were granted a prospective license,” said the witness. He finally said: “The recent investigation could not confirm any occurrences as of now regarding any resourceful mineral in URR.”
Mr Cham however appealed for the Commission to give him time to enable him go through the records on the funds, amounting to over one hundred million dalasi, which was paid at the Central Bank Account of Carnegie Minerals, ranging from 2009 to 2014. According to him, due to the mechanism put in place by the former regime, they sometimes receive information for the movements of their materials which he said bordered on their operations.
Next to testify was the Permanent Secretary, Personal Management Office (PMO), Pateh Jah, who told the Commission that he was summoned in connection with scholarships, awarded by the office of the former President, Yahya Jammeh from the Carnegie Mineral Account.
According to him when the former OP award scholarships to students, awardees will go to their office for bonding, based on the recommendations made by the OP. He added that he cannot tell the Commission whether the Scholarships from the OP were part of government scholarships as some of the scholarships were from institutions such as the Ministry of Higher Education, Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and the PMO respectively. So he said it will be difficult for him to justify whether scholarships awarded by the OP were part of government scholarships.
According to Mr Jah, with regard to centralized scholarships, these will be approved by the PMO after consulting other stakeholders because there is committee responsible for approval.
He further testified that the recipients of scholarship from the Office of the then President will be bonded by the PMO upon receiving directives from the Office of the President.
Mr. Jah also told members of the Commission that there are scholarships awarded by the Ministry of Basic and Higher Education which mostly is awarded to teachers, but did not know the criteria attached to these scholarships including that of the Office of the then President, except that of the PMO.
According to Mr. Jah, the Office of the then President has awarded scholarships to eighteen students and out of that three are currently attending the University of The Gambia while the rest were sponsored outside.
Mr. Jah intimated to the Commission that in order to know the real number of students sponsored by the then president, the Office of the President needs to be contacted. Commission Counsel, Olimatou Danso, at that point applied to tender the list of students sponsored by the then President Yahya Jammeh as well as the supporting documents, as exhibits.
PS Jah further testified that the government has a training policy which is applicable to all civil services.
“I cannot determine whether proper procedures were followed with regard to scholarships awarded by the then Office of the President or whether the scholarships awarded by Office of the then President was sponsored by the former Jammeh himself or government,” Mr. Jah further testified.
“Did the government have a training Policy?” quizzed Ms. Danso. “Yes,” replied PS Jah. He added that he will provide the policy document to the Commission which he said, applies to all civil servants; that he is not sure whether the document gives a general scholarship and he cannot answer whether the proper procedure was followed in awarding scholarship by OP.
Mr Jah further intimated to the Commission that only the Secretary General, Dawda Fadera [current SG] could know whether the sponsorship from the Office of the then President were sponsored by the then President Yahya Jammeh or government. Commission Counsel Bensouda then intimated to the Chairman of the Commission that the Secretary General was summoned in order to shed light on that. Mr. Jah however was tasked to provide the Commission with the training policy, General Orders and the Financial Instruction and was cautioned by Counsel to guide his attitude towards the Commission. Mr. Jah added that the list of students he presented were the only list of students referred to the PMO for bonding.
At that point, the list of the eighteen students and cover letters from the then OP, were tendered and admitted as exhibit MS35.
Business Tycoon Tony Ghattas, who was ordered to furnish the Commission with documents concerning his company’s involvement in the exportation of sand as well as selling of construction sand, reappeared with a bunch of documents from the Geological Department such as a list of all shipments, payment receipts and royalties by APAM, and payments by his companies in respect of the Office of then President Jammeh were also admitted as evidence.
Bill of lading made by APAM and bill of lading for shipment of nineteen containers from December 22nd to 3rd February 2017, were also exhibited. Mr. Ghattas is expected to continue his testimony on Thursday 7th September 2017.