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SSHFC boss testifies in Sabally trial

May 14, 2015, 9:51 AM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

The Managing Director of the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC), Edward Graham, yesterday testified as the seventh prosecution witness (PW7) in the economic crime trial involving the former Secretary General and Minister for Presidential Affairs, Momodou Sabally, before Justice Amadi of the Special Criminal Court in Banjul.

In his testimony, Edward Graham said he is the Managing Director of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, which is a parastatal of the Gambia government.

He said he knew the accused person, and some time in May 2014 he received a call from Sabally informing him of a project by one Mariama Sillah.

He said the accused requested that they (SSHFC) look into the project, assess it, to see whether it fell within their corporate social investment and if it did fall within their purview, they might proceed with the outcome of the assessment.

He said after that Mariama Sillah came to the office with the project documents, and he called the acting director of public relations of SSHFC and the director of finance and investment to form a team to listen to the presentation by Mariama Sillah.

Mariama Sillah then made a lengthy presentation and after discussion and questions relating to the project, Mariama Sillah was asked to go after being told the team would further assess the presentation and submissions, he said.

Mr Graham further adduced that after due processing they called again and the next day he travelled abroad, but the team continued the assessment of the project under the chairmanship of the deputy managing director, Saibatou Faal.

He was away for about a month and, when he returned, he was made to understand that the team after due consideration found the project to be laudable and within the corporate social investment.

However, they found the cost to be a bit on the high side, he said, adding that after his return to the office, the acting MD handed over the project issue to him.

He said Mariama Sillah brought a submission in writing and they asked her to take them through the submissions, which she did and they asked questions.

He identified the submission made by Mariama Sillah in court and without objection from senior counsel Gaye, it was tendered in court and marked as an exhibit.

Mariama Sillah was then asked to go and she would be communicated to after decisions were taken, he said, adding that after the assessment, Mariama Sillah was called in again and, after discussion with her, the amount was reduced by 23 per cent and she was allowed to leave.

He said the deputy managing director approved the amount on behalf of SSHFC to be paid to Mariama Sillah.

He also said the director of finance drew the cheque, and sent it with a cover letter to Mariama Sillah copied to the Office of the President and the relevant files.

The two documents were tendered in court and marked as exhibits without any objection from senior counsel Gaye.

He said the request was directed to them by the accused, and the project was monitored by the SSHFC.

He said Mariama Sillah was the head of the project, and that was all he knew about her.

Under cross-examination by senior Counsel Gaye, the witness said it was true that the accused dealt with him in his capacity as the Secretary General.

He said part of the functions of SSHFC is to invest in youth development, adding that Mariama Sillah did her presentation, and questions and answers were raised and that was the time they asked her to go.

He said if the team deemed it fit, the project might be rejected but it was about youth career development.

The original amount paid to Mariama Sillah was D521,000, he said, adding that he agreed that they carried out their own internal assessment.

Hearing continues today.