By Mamadou Dem
The former member of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) Yankuba Touray, yesterday agreed with Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda and her colleagues that they were accountable for everything they did in the name of The Gambia.
Mr. Touray made this statement when he reappeared to shed more light on loans and grants from the Republic of China on Taiwan and the D3M Account.
Continuing with his testimony, he informed Commissioners that he was not privy to the delegation that negotiated the loan in Taiwan. He however said the same delegation negotiated for the loan as well as the restoration of diplomatic relations.
When shown a Power of Attorney dated 5th August 1995, signed by the former president, he responded that he had the executive power to give Power of Attorney; that he could not remember whether the issuance of Power of Attorney to Captain Ebou Jallow was disclosed to AFPRC members. Mr. Touray told Commissioners that he was not aware that the Minister of Finance went to China for the negotiation of the loan but was aware that Captain Ebou Jallow led the delegation; that Council members were not told how much they would be given but it was said to be a package.
According to Touray, he did not know whether the money was a loan or grant neither did he know the exact amount; but that he came to know about this when it was ratified by the National Assembly.
At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda asked him to tell the commission how much was spent on the projects he was supervising and he responded that he could not remember the figures; that his responsibility was to go round at project sites, adding he could not remember seeing the loan agreement coming to cabinet.
Mrs. Bensouda further put it to him that the Council allegations were that Captain Jallow stole more than $3,000,000 but he responded that he was not aware of that neither did he find out as a council member; that a panel was however constituted for the recovery of the said sum.
Mr. Touray revealed that the management of funds was not a direct responsibility of the council; that some of their transactions were done in secret and he was not privy to all council members’ transactions; that he was more of a field operator; but that there were members of council who were involved in the management of funds which included the former president and Captain Ebou Jallow.
Touray however said he was not sure whether Edward Singhatey was part of the financial controllers; that he was not aware whether an additional complaint of $20,000,000 was made against Ebou Jallow.
Commission Counsel at this juncture put it to him that he seemed not to be aware of many things other than public information despite the fact that he was council member.
“I was not directly involved in the management of funds because it was transacted at the level of the chairman,” he emphasised.
When further asked about project documents under his purview, he responded that they should be in the office of the former president; that he was not in possession of contract documents, adding most of the reports were sent to cabinet and he was directed to check them.
According to Mr. Touray, during physical inspection, he used to give verbal instructions. It was put to him by Bensouda that he did not know the outstanding balance of the $35,000,000 loan from Taiwan.
“I have never asked the Chairman of the Council as to how monies were managed and there was no financial report from the Chairman of the Council neither did I see any detailed report concerning the funds,” Touray said.
Commission Counsel put it to him that the AFPRC arrested and charged so many people with Economic Crime yet the sum of $35,000,000 was not accounted for by the Junta. He responded that there were institutions responsible for recovering the missing funds; that their role as a junta was to ensure that they made a difference in terms of managing public resources.
Further responding, he said he believed that they were accountable for loans they took on behalf of the Gambian people as well as the way and manner the country was governed. He said to some extent, they had a collective responsibility and were accountable but some of them were different in character.
Commission Chairman Sourahata Janneh, put it to him that the AFPRC claimed to be transparent and accountable and asked him why funds were secretly spent. He responded that he thought everything was alright and he even came to know some of the things through the Commission; that he never knew there was an account opened in Switzerland. At this juncture, Commissioner Saine asked him whether he was aware that he had a legal responsibility when he gave and followed orders. He responded in the positive.
Further responding to the Chairman, Touray said the objectives of the revolution was to ensure that the Constitution was reviewed and to serve for 2 years. When put to him by Commission Chairman that after removing the previous government, why their salaries were low and seeing how the former president enriched himself, whether he would conclude that they were clean from corruption, Touray responded that he thought so; that he served the Gambia without fear or favour, affection or ill-will; that he was fired and there was no reason given for his removal and thought his firing was political.
He was further asked if the AFPRC called for transparency, accountability and probity, why people were fired without reason, Touray responded that the former president was using his presidential powers to sack people.
“Do you understand the legal responsibility of a successful coup?” Commissioner Saine asked. Touray responded in the affirmative.
Next to testify was Mr. Alieu Ngum, a retired public servant and former Executive Director of African Development Bank (ADB). Ngum stated that he retired as Secretary General in 2005 and was once appointed Minister of Finance.
Mr. Ngum was informed that he was summoned in connection to a loan of $35,000,000 but he told the Commission that the Minister of Finance at the time was Balla Garba Jahumpa.
According to Ngum, the testimony he was giving the Commission would serve as secondary information because there was a Minister of Finance at the time while he served as Permanent Secretary at the Ministry when the loan agreement was signed.
He said the Ministry was not involved in the implementation or programming of any project from this loan, because it was not captured in their books; that their development partners heard about the loans but they did not see it in the debt stock of Government.
Mr. Ngum further testified that he did not know how the loan was disbursed neither was he informed by the governor of CBG at the time, but assumed that the Minister might have been informed by the governor.
According to him, at some point the CBG was not audited due to an unexplained loan expenditure which included the $28,000,000 loan which the former governor was tight-lip about; that the Ministry of Finance was aware that the account was overdrawn to the tune of $28,000,000.
Ngum said he was not in office as Secretary General when the late Baba Jobe withdrew money on behalf of the former president and was not aware of the authority issued by the governor of CBG concerning the said overdraft; that the auditors revealed that the money was wrongly used and should be reimbursed to the IMF.
Mr. Ngum told the Commission that he was not privy to the arrangement of the overdraft, and can say very little about the withdrawal of monies by Baba Jobe; that loans and grants were given by the Republic of China on Taiwan.
He revealed that there was a grant of $250,000 from the Taiwanese Embassy which was given to the former president; that to the best of his knowledge, the Ministry of Finance was not involved in the administration of the $35,000,000 loan neither did they play any role in the recovery of the $3,000,000 stolen by Captain Ebou Jallow.
The Chief Finance Officer of Gamtel Banding Sillah, was summoned in connection to the financing of Gamtel and various contracts entered by Gamtel on the International Gateway.
Sillah testified that he has been a public servant for almost 30 years and had a summary of a report and supporting documents; that the Department of International Operation was responsible for the management of the funds of Gamtel; that Global Voice came in 2006 and that revenues were paid by the government and that the Company started as a gateway manager in 2007.
Sillah gave a rundown of income generated from the gateway which was paid to Gamtel by Global Voice in 2007 and said it amounted to $10, 812,595.92 while in 2008, Oratus paid Gamtel the sum of $7,875,358 to Gamtal; that the Oratus contract was later terminated and there was an interim management from Gamtel, comprising himself, the Acting Chief Technical Operator among others; but that they operated with the help of Global Voice; that in 2009, System 1 paid $8,653,204.53 to Gamtel while in 2010, they paid $12,770,574.05 and $3,021,662 in 2011.
Dwelling on Tell payments to Gamtel, he said the sum of $6,216, 200.62 was paid in 2011 while in 2012, the sum of $ 7,449,284 was paid and in 2013 they paid $4,976,803.
At this juncture, documents relating to payments including summary of statements and supporting documents from Gamtel, were tendered and admitted as exhibits.
He said there was mobilization of funds locally to make investment and that they had a meeting with Tell but it did not go down well and it was reported to the former president that Gamtel staff were not cooperating.
According to him, he was not aware that MGI made an investment of $26,000,000 in Gamtel; that there was an evaluation report which was made but he did not know how much Gamtel was worth.
Sitting continues today.