Japanese gov’t claims KGI did not deposit all the monies Says Ex-Head Agric Business

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cherno Mballow, former head of Agric Business, yesterday told the Janneh Commission that the Japanese government claimed that KGI did not deposit all the monies generated from the grants given to the Gambia government by the Japanese government. 

The former head of Agric Business at the Department of Agriculture was summoned with regard to Japanese grants to the government of The Gambia.

According to him, his role was to coordinate all business activities of the Department of Agriculture which he said included training of farmers, registration of cooperatives among others.

According to him, he took over from Bakary Sonko as the head of Agric Business until in 2014, when he was responsible for the grants.

He said the ministry was responsible for the grants which was mainly in cash and there was an agreement that one of the Japanese agencies would handle the project, further stating that they would do the clearance for rice consignment at the ports and the sales proceeds should be deposited at the Central Bank, where monies were deposited by Kanilai Group International.

According to him, there were agreements signed by the permanent secretary and KGI and the grants were in food aid such as rice, flour and fertilizer.

He recalled that during his time, he only witnessed four consignments from the Japanese grants, adding that he was the focal point between the ministry and Japan at the time.

He also told commissioners that KGI was subcontracted to sell the said commodities and deposit the proceeds at the Central Bank.

He further said that in 2009, the ministry invited business partners to offer them the said commodities for sale which included Shyben A Madi and KGI  but Shyben A Madi declined the offer and was given to KGI.

However, he said the terms and conditions of the offer were not cleared at the time of the meeting, noting that any price proposal by the ministry at the time would be forwarded to the office of the former president for approval.

Mr.  Mballow, however, disclosed that they did not make any follow-up with KGI for the deposit of the proceeds but confirmed that KGI did not deposit all the proceeds at the CBG.

He said the Japanese agent would check how much was deposited by KGI at the CBG, noting that there was a commission awarded on the business which was determined by the permanent sectary.

He added that whatever price was determined, there would be an approval by the former president, further stating that the Japanese government gave a time limit for every project but there was no audit report.

He further told the commission that the reconciliations were done between the stores and KGI, noting that the Japanese government claimed that KGI did not deposit all the monies from the consignment of the commodities.

Next to testify was Mr.  Abdoulie Hydara, director general of Gambia Tourism Board, in  connection to lease document of the Operation Save the Children Foundation which was initiated by the former president as a charitable organisation.

Testifying before the commission, Mr. Hydara   said he knew the foundation through the Ministry of Tourism, adding that there was a directive to issue them a land [sub-leased land] dated 25 August, 2016.

According to him, they received a letter from the ministry to ascertain a plot of land at the GT Board, noting that they were not told the reason to allocate the said land and a letter dated 25 August, 2015, authorised them to allocate the land through one Lamin Fatty.

He recalled that the board was invited by Fatou Mass Jobe-Njie and Fatou Lamin Faye to allocate the land to the foundation and he called Mrs. Njie and asked why one of his staff was invited without his knowledge.

He testified that the letter was handed over to the Ministry of Tourism and the land committee was responsible to recommend for land allocation, further noting that the board would be informed to do the allocation.

He said according to the executive directives, the ministry had to allocate the land to the foundation, adding that most of the lands were committed to the former president to be used by Kanilai Family Farms.

Mr. Hydara stated that they had nine Tourism Development Areas, noting that about 34% on TDA1 was given to the former president, stating that at the time he assumed office, he did not receive any communication that the land given to the former president was used for tourism purposes. He added that the sub-lease was not registered with the Ministry of Justice.

At this juncture, documents relating to the land allocation were tendered and admitted in evidence.

Further testifying before the commission, he told the commission that he could not tell the allocation of other TDAs, disclosing that they had never received any application from Kanilai Family Farms to be allocated a land at the TDA.

Mr. Hydara, however, said he was not satisfied with the way the land was allocated to KFF, further testifying that they had twenty-seven applications for allocation of land out of which he said ten were approved.

Mrs. Ada Gaye, former permanent secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, reappeared in connection to Japanese rice project which was a grant from the Japanese government to The Gambia government.

She told the commission that it was correct that she received some consignments and this was a support for the under privileged farmers and according to her, each consignment had a correspondent account and after selling the consignment, it was deposited into that account and anytime the Gambia government wanted to use the funds, they sought for a clearance from the Japanese government.

According to Mrs. Gaye, the consignment she received was handed over to KGI as instructed by the former president, noting that they once suggested for a level playing field for the private sector. However, when she took over, she discovered that KGI was the sole contractor for the sales of the Japanese rice.

At this juncture, correspondences from the Ministry of Agriculture relating to the grant were admitted in evidence.

The witness also confirmed to the commission that there were supplies from the Japanese government prior to 2009; adding that a committee discovered that there was an outstanding sum of D30,000,000 from the fertilizer and D17,000,000 from the rice while the sum of D92,000,000 was paid without authorization for the purchase of fertilizer from Indonesia.

However, she informed the commission that an outstanding sum of D61, 000,000 was paid by the former president but she could not ask for further payments from the former president because she was scared.

At this juncture, Mrs. Bensouda asked her to explain why she was scared, and she said that she was told that the former president was not happy for people to ask him to pay up and the sum of D30, 000,000 is still pending.

On whether the Japanese did not threaten to withdraw the support, she responded in the negative and added that there were additional consignments when she left the office.

Sergeant 2374 Ebrima Bah, a police officer attached to the Serious Crime Unit of the The Gambia Police Force (GPF) and a member of the taskforce that investigated government properties at Brufut Garden Estate, testified that the taskforce comprised the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Drug Law Enforcement Agency of The Gambia (DLEAG) and the police respectively.

According to him, the Term of Reference (TOR) of the taskforce was to find out the terms and conditions and allocations of the bungalows and during the course of their investigation, they were informed that 12 apartments were authorised by Muhammed Bazzi to be given out but they were not told why Mr. Bazzi lodged people in those apartments.

He said at the time of the fact finding, Mr. Bazzi was said to be out of the jurisdiction. On the other hand, he said the Chief of Protocol Alagie Ousman Ceesay, allocated houses to people on the instruction of the former president likewise Sanna Jarju, former chief of protocol, as well.

According to Sergeant Bah, some of the apartments were occupied by a Nigerian judge, brother of the former first lady and a Moroccan who died in a car accident among others.

He testified that they were told that two of the apartments belonged to Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC); adding that they discovered that those occupying the place were not paying any rental fees.

He finally revealed that among their recommendations was to evict them out and allow people that would be of benefit to the government to occupy the premises which he said was what they meant in their report as ‘review’ and ‘revisit’.

Hearing continues today.

Author: Dawda Faye