Aug 11, 2015, 10:38 AM
Former Works Minister Ousman Badjie yesterday told the court before Justice Abi of the Banjul High Court that he had no supervising authority over staff of the Embassy in Paris.
Opening his defence, Ousman Badjie told the court that the then Financial Attaché, Faisal Bojang, forged the signature of the deputy head of mission/head of chancery, Adelle Sock, and took cash amount of 37, 500 Euros from the bank and disappeared.
He then went on to explain the hierarchy at the embassy in Paris. The ambassador is the head of mission assisted by the deputy head of mission, who is also assisted by the head of chancery.
The head of chancery is assisted by the financial attaché and the welfare officer in charge of consular matters, and each of them have their duties and responsibilities well stipulated in the Foreign Service Regulations 1992.
As the then ambassador, his responsibilities, among others, were to represent the Gambia government in his country of accreditation in all official functions, national days, as well as attend to other missions accredited to France, Badjie said.
It was his responsibility to undertake familiarization tour in the provincial areas of his country of accreditation, so that he could be familiar with the realities on the ground to make a brief to the home office, he added.
He said his duties also included promoting friendly relations between The Gambia and his country of accreditation, and to develop commercial, economic, cultural and scientific relations between The Gambia and his country of accreditation.
He should also hold periodic meetings with the Gambian community in Paris to hear and know their problems, and report to the home country for redress.
He said that in diplomatic powers, the deputy head of mission/head of chancery was responsible for the day-to-day administration and coordination of the mission.
Badjie further told the court that between 14 and 30 June 2014, in the case of France, there was a head of chancery in the person of Adelle Sock.
The responsibility of head of chancery is delegated by the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the head of chancery is responsible for the day-to-day coordination of the administration and financial transactions of the mission, he said.
He added that the financial attaché is a staff of the directorate of Treasury (Accountant General’s Department) posted to the embassy as a financial controller and, in collaboration with the head of mission, prepares the budget of the embassy for submission at the director of Treasury.
Ambassadors are appointed and posted to the embassy by the head of state, which is the President.
Ousman Badjie further adduced that ambassadors and financial attaché are not answerable to the same line ministry.
He said the line ministry for ambassadors is the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He said Faisal Bojang was introduced to him in Paris, which was the first time he saw him, adding that in October 2013, Faisal Bojang was escorted by the then Director of National Treasury and a senior member of the same directorate in Paris.
He said it was the Director of National Treasury who posted Faisal Bojang to the embassy.
The letter of posting of Faisal Bojang was tendered in court, and marked in evidence as a defence exhibit without any objection from the prosecution.
The staff members at the embassy are directly answerable to the head of chancery, he told the court.
Count one, which was negligence was read to him in court.
He said the day-to-day running of the finances of the embassy was directed to the head of chancery in accordance with FSR 1992.
However, the FSR document was not tendered in court due to objection from the state that it was a photocopy.
He said that, as an ambassador, he did not have any supervising authority over the staff of the embassy.
He got to know about the deed of Faisal Bojang on 20 February 2014, when the consular at the bank called him and told him that they could not cash a cheque due to insufficient funds in the account.
He said that as soon as he received the information, he called the head of chancery and they went to the bank together.
Badjie added that at the bank their focal person told them that Faisal Bojang had cashed the sum of 37,500 Euros that same day; and he asked them how it happened.
They told him that he (Faisal) brought a cheque that was signed by the two signatories to the account, he said.
He said the two signatories to the account were the head of chancery and Faisal Bojang.
He said he requested for the copy of the cheque and the latest print-out from the account, and they proceeded to the police station to report the matter and gave copies of the cheque and Faisal Bojang’s passport, and their statement was recorded.
He wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs informing them of the theft they encountered at the embassy, and that the matter was reported to the police station.
He also made a follow-up call to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting for their cooperation in the matter, and they informed him that they had written to the Ministry of the Interior to put Faisal Bojang in their blacklist.
He also wrote to the European Union diplomatic missions not to issue any visa to Faisal Bojang, and if they should see him they should hand him over to them.