€6,000 deduction was not justified, SSHFC MD tells Janneh Commission

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Muhammed Manjang, managing director of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, yesterday told the Janneh Commission that the €6,000 deducted from the electricity bills and rentals of Ocean Bay and Sun Beach Hotels was not justified by BPI Investment Group. 

He appeared before the commission in connection to the leasing of Ocean Bay and Sun Beach Hotels respectively.

He said he became the MD of SSHFC on the 7th of March, 2017, but prior to that, he was an employee of Standard Chartered Bank. At this juncture, two statements were given to him to go through, which he did and said that they were his.

Barrister Musa Batchilly applied to tender the statements as exhibits which was granted by the commission. Lawyer Batchilly read the first paragraph of the statement dated 19th July, 2018, to the witness.

Mr. Manjang testified that the statement read to him by Counsel Batchilly was in connection to the leasing of Ocean Bay and Sun Beach Hotels. He said BPI was to pay in quarterly payments in advance; adding that what was outstanding was over D2, 000,000.

According to him, during his time, they wrote to BPI to settle their lease rentals and electricity bills, noting that he understood that BPI would pay the full arrears of the electricity bills but they did not.

He adduced that BPI deducted €6,000 from the rentals and electricity bills; adding that they provided them with receipts but he said the deduction by BPI for the rentals were not justified.

Mr. Manjang was again given five letters which he went through and said he recognized them. The said letters were subsequently tendered and admitted in evidence.

He revealed that BPI owed SSHFC €78,000 as rental for Ocean Bay Hotel and $30,000 rental for Sun Beach Hotel. He further explained that BPI owed Ocean Bay Hotel over D8, 000,000 for electricity bills and over D2, 000,000 to Sun Beach Hotel as electricity bills.

He said BPI did not settle what they owed and they appealed to be given time to settle their debt but they only paid D5,000,000 for the electricity bills and quarterly rentals.

Mr. Manjang confirmed that the title deeds of the hotels are not with SSHFC and it was not part of the agreement for BPI to be in possession of the title deeds, further stating that they wrote to BPI to get back the title deeds but they were not successful.

According to him, the sum of €2,000,000 was supposed to be spent on Sun Beach Hotel for renovation by BPI, noting that BPI said they would do the renovation as per their price.

The witness told the commission that looking at what was done, BPI did not spend €2,000,000 on the renovation of Sun Beach Hotel.

Earlier, Momodou Sabally, former secretary general, head of the Civil Service and Presidential Affairs minister, was shown an exhibit. However, Mr. Sabally said the said exhibit was a directive from the former president for the leasing of the said hotels.

The witness further testified that he was present when the former president was discussing with the Gambian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates for the leasing of the hotels.

He disclosed that the leasing of the hotels were inspired by the former president, stating that they were leased to BPI investors. At this juncture, he was given a letter dated 18th July, 2018, which he confirmed he signed.

Mr. Sabally adduced that he did not know whether there were other offers for the leasing of the hotels neither did he know whether the former president was aware of these offers. He told the commission that it was not necessary for SSHFC to take instructions to lease the hotels.

At this juncture, some letters were given to him to go through, which he did. The said letters were tendered and admitted as exhibit.

Again, a letter was given to him indicating that SSHFC was seeking approval from the former president to lease the hotels, and he said this was normal.

However, it was put to him by Counsel Batchilly that because of the interest of the former president, the management of SSHFC and the board decided to lease the hotels to BPI.

Mr. Lamin A.K. Touray, the registrar of companies, was cross-examined by Lawyer Mary Samba on behalf of Amadou Samba.

Mr. Touray testified that his duties are to register companies, charitable organisations, business entities and individuals and any other duty or duties assigned to him by the solicitor general or the attorney general.

At this juncture, Lawyer Mary Samba informed him that he was served to produce some documents such as the Memorandum and Article of Association, and was given some documents to go through. He confirmed certifying the said documents, stating that he has the file of Alfon Gambia Limited at the Attorney General Chambers. He finally testified that the company was incorporated in 1986.

Next to be cross-examined by Lawyer Mary Samba was Mr. Alieu Jallow, the registrar general. He told the commission that he is responsible for the registration of trade unions, deeds, marriages among others.

Ms. Samba told him that he was required to produce some documents and the said documents were given to him which he confirmed.

At this juncture, Ms. Samba applied to tender the said documents as exhibits which was granted by the commission chairman, Sourahata Janneh. Mr. Jallow finally disclosed that he certified the said documents.

Sittings continue today. 

Author: Dawda Faye