The accounts were in shambles-Ex-Agric Business DG

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bakary L.O. Sonko, the former director general (DG) at the Ministry of Agriculture, yesterday told the Janneh Commission that the accounts at the Central Bank where monies given to The Gambia government as grants were deposited in shambles. 

He was summoned in connection to the Japanese grants in which he was involved. He said he became involved in the grant when all the departments under the agricultural unit were merged and restructured.

Prior to that, he told the commission that he served the Ministry of Agriculture for almost 35 years and the best; he spent with the cooperative department.

According to him, the purpose of the grant was to help the under privileged farmers and that was how he got involved but was not the focal person. He added that the ministry at the time managed the grant internally.

He also told the commission that they confirmed how the proceeds were deposited at CBG and also monitored the disbursement of consignments and prepared quarterly reports to the Japanese. He said after they held a meeting, the government was involved and a co-committee was also formed to come up with a payment plan for the grant and approved by the office of the former president.

Mr. Sonko, however, disclosed that he was concerned about the commodities given to KGI whom he said were selling at a particular high price and KGI was supposed to deposit the proceeds at CBG but they realised that KGI was in shortfall and they did not abide by the agreement. He said he was not dealing directly with the former president despite the fact that he was their minister but was of the belief that the PS was dealing with him.

He said there were outstanding deliveries of fertilizer at the office of the former president; adding that when he voluntarily retired from the Central Government and joined the Agric Project, he was coordinating the grants through Agric Business.

Mr. Sonko agreed that the grants that were meant to help the under privileged farmers were not utilised for the purpose it was meant for, however, he blamed KGI for not complying with the terms and conditions of the agreement as most of these grants were concentrated within the Greater Banjul Area.

He said he believed that KGI did not have a competitor for the contract to sell the commodities because it belongs to the former president. However, Commissioner Bai Mass Saine further asked him why they continued to supply KGI when there were shortfalls.

In response, he said it was a long term arrangement and could not be stopped immediately; adding that what they requested from the office of the former president as the shortfall of D92, 000.000 was more than the said amount.

Kebba Drammeh, principal record officer at the Office of the President, submitted files that were related to Taiwanese loans which were admitted as exhibits. 

Augustus Prom, who was appointed by the government to serve as the receiver on properties belonging to the former president, reappeared before the ‘Janneh’ Commission alongside with Louise Prom Junior.

Prior to his testimony, he was reminded by Counsel Anna Njie that he was served with a summon in connection to the receivership of 17 companies of the former president. Prom Jnr. responded in the affirmative.

According to him, they had an executive summary where the names of these companies were listed.

At this juncture, the executive summary in receivership along with other documents were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

He said the objective was meeting those on the ground and explaining to them concerning the receivership of their companies, noting that they also dealt with their staffing and banking.  He told the commission that those they found on the ground were cooperating with them. 

He testified that the Green Industry has an account at the Trust Bank which was registered but that the Royal Company has no receivership, further stating that they took over the Observer Company and it has serious issues, and it was closed by the GRA which they owe some money.

On KGI, he said it deals mostly in commodities and also engages in bakery, noting that there was a resolution for shareholders.

Next to testify was Attikan Dibba, principal accountant, CBG, who reappeared in connection to Japanese loans and grants. He testified that they had 25 accounts relating to the said grants and loans from Japan.

According to him, proceeds were lodged into the Central Bank after the sales of the commodities and the proceeds were deposited as far back as 1990; adding that the purpose was to accumulate the proceeds from the said grants.

He testified that they had the account numbers and balances and out of the 25 accounts, he said they selected 10 accounts and according to him they were in the high balance which was over D10, 000,000. He then gave details and balances in each of the account, date of opening and the denominations of each account in dalasi and dollar.

Mr. Dibba revealed that out of the ten accounts, they only had the transactions of five accounts. Dwelling on some of the accounts, he said the Japanese Grant Trade Gateway was opened on the 6th September, 2000, and the balance was zero while the Japanese for TR Programme was opened on the 25thSeptember, 2000, with a balance of D631, 625.49.

On the Japanese Grant 2KR 2000, he said it was opened on the 30th December, 2002, with a balance of D160, 707.35 while the Grant Development Phase 2 was opened on the 11th September, 2003, with zero balance. The KR Japanese Grant, he said was opened on the 5th May, 2005, and there was a balance of D2, 309,415. He said the Japanese Food Aid 2006 account was opened on the 22nd June, 2007, with a balance of D3, 348,514.78.

The Sales of Fertilizer Account, he said it was opened on the 19th of January, 2009, with a balance of D19, 051,055 while the Wheat Flour account was opened on the 28th of February, 2012, with a balance of D3, 720,000 and the JAMKR account was opened on the 1st of September, 2014, with a balance of D4, 105,099.59. The JAFK account he said was opened on the 1st of September, 2014, with a balance of D105, 690.19.

Buttressing further on these accounts, the principal banker revealed that there was another account called 2KR Account and the first transaction was on the 16th May, 2012, with a balance of D5, 580,000 while 2KR 1999 Account first transaction was on the 2nd December, 2002, with a balance of D14, 725.

On 2KR 2000 C, he said the first transaction was 2nd December, 2002, with a balance of D643, 772.12, while the 2K 2007 Account, the first transaction was on the 9th January, 2009, and the balance was D724, 890 and the Japanese Aid Sale of Wheat Flour first transaction was on the 2nd of October, 1999, and the balance was D738,732,58.

According to him, the Aid KR 2010 account, the first transaction was on the 25th of July, 2012, and the balance was D25, 992,711.11, while the RSSP Account first transaction was 1st of February, 2000, with a nil balance. RSSP Account’s first transaction was 2nd of October, 1999, with a nil balance as well.

On SD Education Project Account, he said there was no transaction with zero balance but on the WRG Account, the first transaction was on the 2nd of October, 1999, with a balance of D1, 000,000, while the KR 2004 Rice Food Aid Account, the first transaction was on the 8th of May, 2006, with a balance of D957, 609.35. He said the KR 2009 Account, the first transaction was on the 23rd of August, 2011, and there was a balance of D71, 520,625.63.

The Sales of Japanese Rice Account, the first transaction was on the 28th of July, 2004, with a balance of D44, 752,200, while the Sales of Fertilizer Account, there was a balance of D24, 235,582 but they did not have the first transaction on this account. However, he promised the commission that they would update the remaining accounts.

Documents relating to these accounts were tendered and admitted as exhibits. Sittings continue today. 

Author: Dawda Faye