Jammeh gov’t defaulted to pay loan on GRTS satellite, Sankullekunda bridge: Finance PS

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Abdoulie Jallow, permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance, yesterday informed the Janneh Commission that the former government defaulted to pay a loan for GRTS satellite link and Sankullekunda Bridge contracts.

He reappeared in connection to GRTS loan on a satellite link as well as Sankulaykunda Bridge.

Prior to his testimony, he was told by Counsel Anna Njie that she understood that he was no longer with the ministry but Mr. Jallow responded that he is on leave.

According to him, in 2009, the Ministry of Finance received a letter from the office of the former president which instructed them to take a loan from Trust Bank which would not attract an interest, noting that the loan was guaranteed by Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC).

At this juncture, he was given a copy of the said letter from the office of the former president, which he confirmed. He said he did not know all the events that preceded the loans. However, he said he only got to know the two projects when they received the letter.

Mr. Jallow testified that he thought that the Ministry of Finance was not aware of the projects from the inception; adding that when they received the letter, they discussed it internally, and it was not the burden on GRTS but the former government.

He confirmed that SSHFC was to guarantee the loan, which was suggested by Trust Bank. However, Counsel Njie told him that a letter from SSHFC indicated that the directive was from the Ministry of Finance and not from the office of the former president.

PS Jallow responded that there was no obligation on SSHFC to accept the letter from the Ministry of Finance and could have even rejected it; adding that it was the responsibility of the former government to settle the loan to SSHFC which was supportive.

 It was further put to him that the Sankullekunda Bridge project was personally handled by the former president. In response, he said he was not sure.

He adduced that they could not get the Ministry of Works to apply for the loan for the implementation of the Sankullekunda Bridge and that was why they decided to use GRTS to apply for the said loan.

However, he acknowledged that it was wrong to do that, hence the loan for the bridge had nothing to do with the national broadcaster. He added that he knew about the GRTS Satellite Link account at the Central Bank but he did not know that it was the ROC funds which were put in that account.

According to him, there had been so many bilateral issues over the years which had been settled while others are still pending.       

 He stated that Trust Bank had recovered the loan, and that the bank had debited SSHFC with $1.8 million. He said the former government was therefore obligated to pay SSHFC.

At this juncture, documents relating to the loans were tendered and admitted in evidence. Mr. Jallow further revealed to the commission that they were not working with GRTS but acted on the directive they received from the office of the former president, noting that $2.8 million was recovered from $4.6 million loan. 

He testified that the project cost $12.6 million, and that the office of the former president was to settle the $4.6 million, further stating it was not the proper procedure to handle the loan.

With regard to GRTS loan, it was put to him by Ms. Njie that the then GRTS Finance director was reluctant to take the loan because the GRTS account was almost in red. In response, Mr. Jallow said he was not supposed to talk to GRTS Finance director, and that they did things internally at the level of the ministry.

Earlier testifying, Lamin Saidy, an IT expert and a businessman, was summoned in relation to a network contracts at Kanilai.

He testified that he was told by the former managing director of Gamtel, Babucarr Sanyang, that there were some investors who wanted to meet the former president at Kanilai.

Mr. Saidy recalled receiving a call from the office of the former president; adding that his relationship with the former secretary general, Njogu Bah, was cordial but that does not mean that he (Bah) recommended him for the former president’s office contract. 

Mr. Saidy testified that he joined Balla Jassey and the Swiss investor at West Field to travel to the former president’s village where they found Njogu Bah. He said they had a meeting but he did not know who arranged the said meeting.

He adduced that he did not know why he was called to go to Kanilai, but it was put to him that he was the one who arranged the meeting which he denied. He said while at Kanilai, the Swiss guy spoke to the secretary general but he did not see the former president, noting that he did not know why the contract went through the office of the former president.

Mr. Saidy further testified that he did not know where the contract was prepared but he was called and the contract was given to him and there was no tender, adding that he did not know the purpose of the meeting. He confirmed that he heard about TELL Company, further stating that he had a call from Balla Jassey, who told him that the Swiss investor from MGI came with a proposal.

According to him, the reason why he was contacted by Balla Jassey after Mr. Jassey sent a letter to the office of the former president was that maybe Balla Jassey needed his help. He added that he had never worked with Balla Jassey but had met Njogu Bah.

Further testifying, he told the commission that he met the former president once and was asked to do the network at Kanilai but he told them he did not have the capacity, stating that he knew about Mobicell-Group and that it is owned by Balla Jassey. He said he did not have any dealing with the company, noting that he decided to suspend the services he rendered to the former government because they owed him.

Mr. Saidy explained that he was not present when the gateway contract was awarded to MGI and he had nothing to do with it but had confirmed that he was frequent at State House.

At this juncture, he was shown his own statement which he confirmed and the said statement was tendered and admitted as an exhibit.

According to him, his company did not benefit in any way in the management of the Gamtel gateway; adding that the contract he had with the former president was in 2014 and it was before the contract with MGI.   

Sittings continue on Monday.

Author: Dawda Faye