There were so many flaws in the agreementFatim Badjie Tells Commission

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Fatim Badjie-Sinyang, former Information, Communication and Technology minister, yesterday told the Janneh Commission that there were so many flaws in the Spectrum Gamtel/Gamcel shares agreement.  

Mrs. Sinyan, who reappeared in connection to Gamtel/Spectrum gateway contract, informed the commission that she went through the contract documents but the signatures on some of the documents were not hers; adding that she never met Mr. Charara  regarding Gamtel/Gamcel gateway contract.

However, she said she was the minister of Information Communication and Technology but was not involved in the sales of Gamtel/Gamcel shares neither did she amend Spectrum contract but signed the termination of the contract.

She confirmed writing a letter to the former president for Spectrum to be investigated on breaches of the contract and a letter was written terminating their contract after investigation was launched by the management of Gamtel/Gamcel, NIA, PURA and the attorney general.      

According to her, she did not play any role in the repurchase of Gamtel/Gamcel share neither was she aware of Bazzi’s intention to have 30% share in the national telecom and its subsidiary. She said she did not see the NIA investigation report in collaboration with PURA but the matter was also brought before the cabinet, indicating that Spectrum investment was not in the interest of the country.

Mrs. Sinyan further revealed to the commission that she was asked to sign an agreement for one Emirate Investment Group but she refused to do so without the presence of the solicitor general. She added that she did not see the amount of resources or fund lost in Gamtel/Gamcel as alleged.

She testified that she joined the company in 2008 and there were issues of hiring and firing, further stating that management of Gamtel was asked to take the responsibility whose manpower they possessed.

She testified that there were so many flaws in the Gamtel/Gamcel agreement and this was why she refused to sign, and she left the office because of many reasons. She said the Ministry of Finance represented government’s interest in the shares of Gamtel/Gamcel.

Continuing his testimony in connection to Gamtel gateway and 3M Account, the former Minister of Finance, Musa Balla Gaye, confirmed signing a letter which was shown to him by Counsel Amie Bensouda.

On the contract between Spectrum and Gamtel for the sale of shares, he said he could not remember whether he was involved in the negotiation of the contract, further stating that he left the ministry on the 9 June, 2009.

Mr. Gaye confirmed that they considered a waiver and liabilities on taxes for Mr. Charara because Mr. Charara was going to invest a substantial sum of money in the country. It was put to him that there were letters which were signed by him concerning the waiving on taxes for the said business tycoon which he confirmed to the commission.

According to the former finance minister, he made a recommendation to the former government for duty waiver and after he made the recommendation, it was sent to the Office of the Secretary General.

Another letter was shown to the witness regarding the negotiation of shares bought by Spectrum from Gamtel/Gamcel. In response, he disclosed that there was a directive from the office of the former president concerning the said shares. He added that Mr. Bazzi was a friend to the former president and that he was present during the negotiation for the purchase of sales by Spectrum.

However, he disclosed that Spectrum was operating from the Standard Chartered House where Bazziz’s office was located. He said he could recollect for the fact that the attorney for Spectrum intimated that he was going to review the contract prior to signing.

At this juncture, correspondences between the witness, Mr. Muhammed Bazzi and Ali Charara including waiver on taxes and liabilities for Gamtel/Gamcel were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

Mr. Gaye further told the commission that an account was opened at the Central Bank for monies paid by Spectrum, noting that the Directorate of National Treasury wrote to CBG for the opening of the said account and instructed that the signatories to the account would come later.

However, Counsel Bensouda told him that he authorised payments from the account without having the signatories. Mr. Gaye responded that the said funds were governed by financial instructions, and that the budget vote controller was used in the national budget controller and there was nothing stopping the minister from acting in accordance with the act, and this was among the reasons why he became a signatory to the account.

It was put to him by the counsel that all revenues form part of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and he responded that the revenues accrued by Gamtel/Gamcel were windfall revenues and these were physical practices.

However, he acknowledged that there is no provision in the laws for windfall revenue but there is a provision in the law empowering the minister to open an account. He confirmed that the sum of $19,000,000 was paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund as a result of IMF intervention. He added that the sum of $2,700,000 was paid at the Central Bank but the bank could not trace out the authority.

At this juncture, the witness told the commission that as the former minister, he read so many budget speeches to the National Assembly during which he outlined the provisions in the 1997 Constitution restricting the minister with the management of the ministry and raised them extensively.

He said all the withdrawals he authorised were directives from the office of the former president including the transfer of $2.2 million to the Gambian Embassy in U.S.A. for the purchase of school buses and other vehicles.

According to him, being the minister at the time, he never asked the purpose of all the funds he was instructed by the office of the former president to withdraw, which he said was the order of the day, and there was no budget for the purchase of the said buses.

Mr. Gaye testified that if the Public Finance Act of 2014 was strictly followed, then all this economic mess would not have happened. He said during his tenure as minister, the economy was booming and was on the fast track. 

Documents for the purchase of school buses were tendered and admitted.

 He further disclosed that he did not receive any statement indicating how the sum of $9,000,000 was spent by the Gambian Embassy in Washington DC. He was then told by counsel that with his calibre, he accepted instructions without asking questions, and he responded in the positive.

Mr. Gaye pointed out to the commission that some of the funds transferred to certain people were serving the interest of the former president and not the country.

It was put to him that being the Minister of Finance, how  could he act on instruction to disburse monies, and was asked whether this was in line with standard practice.

In response, he said that there were certain behaviours that became of him, further stating that what he read in the papers really baffled him.

When he was challenged by counsel, he said officials were serving the former president but not Gambians.

He was reminded of a sum of $28,500.000 by Central Bank for an overdraft loan incurred by the bank. He said he did not know the origin of the said money neither did he know how it was disbursed.

Mr. Gaye told the commission that the former government accepted the loan and IMF said that government should pay the said loan, noting that it was financed by excess treasury bills. He disclosed that IMF did not accept the report by the Central Bank and they delegated a South African Audit Firm to embark on a re-audit.  He stated that he thought the money was not filtered.

Mr. Ebrima Sallah, managing director, Trust Bank Gambia Ltd., reappeared in connection to accounts submitted before the commission. He said he had twenty accounts with him out of which seven were for Kanilai Family Farms (KFF).

On GLMA account, he said the account was opened in 2010 and the last transaction was 6 October, 2011; adding that the total credit into the account was D12, 054, 386 while the balance was D3, 989 .57 and the signatories were Sulayman Jammeh and Ousman Y. Bojang.

Dwelling on the Kanilai Garage Account, he said it was opened on the 3 September, 2007, and the last transaction was 31 August, 2010, further stating that the total debit from this account was D3, 450 and the total credit was D3, 006,497.05 and the balance in the account was D3074.

Mr. Ousman Y. Bojang and YankubaJatta were signatories to the account, he told the commission.

The next account he revealed was the Kanilai Alternative Medical Clinic Account and was opened on the 1 of February, 2012, further stating that the last transaction on this account was on the 5th of April, 2017, subject to frozen order. The total balance in this account was D2, 750, he testified.

He added that the total credit that went into the account was D482, 550.64, and the signatories were Dr. Tamsir Mbowe one Nyima Badjie and Ansouuman Njie.

The next account, he said, was Kanilai Institute of Technology and the account was opened on the 29 July, 2010, and there were various signatories, namely Dr. Njogu Bah, Ebrima Camara, Nuha Touray, Momodou Sabally and Lamin Nyabally.  According to him, this account was an investment account.

The Kanilai Woni Account, according to him, was opened on the 15th of December, 2003, and the former president was the sole signatory to the account, and the total credit was over D500, 000, while the total debit was D50, 000.

Testifying on Kanilai Bakery Account, he said the account was opened on the 30th of August, 2010, and the signatory to the account was the former president and Ahemed Hodrog. The last transaction from this account, he said, was on the 11 August, 2010, with a total credit of D10, 000, 000 while there was a debit of over D54, 000. There was zero balance in the account, he revealed.

He further disclosed that the Central Abattoir Account was opened on the 10th of March, 2010, and the signatories were Yankuba Jatta and Pierre Tamba, further stating that the beneficiaries to this account were Awa Jaiteh, Kebba T. Sanyang among others. He said that the last transaction was 24 May, 2017, with a total debit of D110, 000 while the total credit was over D10, 000,000.

At this juncture, bunch of documents relating to the said accounts were tendered and admitted as exhibits. He also dwelled on other Kanilai International Group accounts (KGI), and documents of these accounts were also admitted as exhibits. 

Author: Dawda Faye
Source: Picture: Fatim Badjie-Sinyang, former Information, Communication and Technology minister