Jan 22, 2020, 5:26 PM
(Issue, Friday 27 March 2015)
Three Ministry of Agriculture officials yesterday pleaded not guilty to four counts of economic crimes, abuse of office and negligence, before Justice Abi of the Banjul High Court.
The three are Lamin Fatajo, ex-programme coordinator of Rural Finance Project, Lamin Mass, ex-administrative manager of the Rural Finance Project, and Ada Gaye, ex-permanent secretary at the ministry of Agriculture in Banjul.
When the case was called, DPP SH Barkhum told the court that all the accused were present and they were ready to proceed, and since the case was set for mention, the charges could be read to the accused to take their plea.
However, S.M. Tambadou told the court that his client, the 3rd accused, was not served, and was not ready to take her plea because he was yet to advice her.
The most important thing was that the 3rd accused was served a notice to appear in court, responded the prosecutor, adding that they were ready for plea-taking.
Justice Abi then gave the defence counsel a 10-minutes stand down to communicate with his client on the plea-taking.
According to the indictment read in court on count one the accused persons Lamin Fatajo, and Lamin Mass, between February and November 2013, in Banjul and diverse places in The Gambia, within the jurisdiction while being employed as Program Coordinator of Rural Finance Project and acting Finance administrative Manager of the Rural Finance Project respectively, abused their offices by authorizing and approving the payment of D117,521 as salary advances for project staff in contravention of the projects finance and administration procedure manual.
Count two stated that the two accused persons, between December 2013 and May 2014, neglected their duties by failing to stop the payment of D18,000 as sitting allowances to some committee members who failed to attend such meetings.
Count three stated that the accused persons between December 2013 and May 2014, approved the payment of D18,000 as sitting allowances to some committee members set up to review the union finance promotion center and were not entitled to the same, which act is detrimental to the economy of The Gambia or to the people of The Gambia.
Count four stated that the accused persons, Lamin Fatajo, Lamin Mass and Ada Gaye, between 1st and 31st July 2014, being employed as Programme Coordinator of Rural Finance Project and acting Finance Administrative Manager of the Rural Finance Project and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, respectively, neglected in their official duties by authorizing the payment of $14,000 to Sonko Fofana without first seeking and obtaining approval from IFAD.
They all denied the charges.
After the plea-taking, DPP Barkhum said he was applying for the matter to be adjourned for hearing, and for the accused persons to be remanded in prison custody.
Lawyer B.S. Touray, representing the two accused persons, told the court that his clients were granted bail by the lower court.
Lawyer S.M. Tambadou also told the court that his client, the 3rd accused, was granted bail by the Banjul Magistrates’ Court in a related case on 14 October 2014.
He said the conditions of the bail were a property worth D3 million in Banjul together with her travel documents; and the title deeds of her sureties are with the authorities.
“I wish to apply to the court to allow the 3rd accused to remain on her previous bail until a formal bail application has been filed.
DPP in reply said even if the matter was from the subordinate court, the position of the law was that where there was a substantial amendment in the charge, there should be a formal bail application.
He said counsel should prove that she was granted bail by the lower court, and she could meet the conditions.
In his ruling, the trial judge said he had verified that all the accused persons were granted bail by the lower court through the records before him.
“I will allow all the accused persons to continue on their bail granted to them by the lower court, and they shall file a formal bail application on or before the next adjournment date,” the judge said.
The case was adjourned to 31 March 2015.