The scandal was unraveled by Malagen newspaper with an audio alleged to be the voice of the embattled permanent secretary who was recorded saying “this one I’ll share with my minister”
The permanent secretary Dr. Banja and his boss Minister Gomez are accused of involving in a bribery scandal involving Golden Lead Factory – a Chinese fishing firm.
According to the Information Minister Ebrahim Sillah, Dr. Banja has left for leave.
“I reached out to the Honourable Minister of Fisheries and he informed me last night that the permanent secretary Dr. Banja has proceeded on leave to allow possible investigations and he would make himself available to any body set up to investigate the alleged issue.”
Dr Banja’s administrative leave was also confirmed by government spokesperson Ebrahim Sankareh.
“He is on leave. I just got the report actually from the office of the IGP. So effectively, he has proceeded on administrative leave.”
“The permanent secretary at the Ministry of Fisheries Dr. Banja proceeds on administrative leave as the minister suggested, yes today.
“In this saga the process to start police investigation is also on the way from the Office of the IGP”
According to Malagen’s investigations, in an article written by Investigative Journalist Mustapha K. Darboe, Dr Banja has received at least five payments of D100, 000 each between 2018 and 2020.
The investigations further revealed that “two of the payments were connected to the lifting of the ban on night fishing.”
Another “was made as recently as April 10, 2020, to allow the company to operate during Covid-19.”
Accordingly, it was revealed that the other payments, according to the reporter’s source were made on September 27, 2018, October 13, 2018, October 23, 2018 and October 31, 2018.
Malagen obtained purported audios of Dr. Banja saying: “I will share with my minister. “I will give him half and I take half.”
According to Malagen online newspaper, both the Fisheries Minister Gomez and his permanent secretary have denied the allegations.
Permanent Secretary Dr. Bajan claimed the audio was “manipulated while his boss minister denied the allegation saying he is not cheap.
The alleged bribery took place after Golden Lead’s vessel was found guilty of breach of the Fisheries Act. The company officials opted for out of court settlement and to gain favour of the top brass at the Fisheries Ministry, decided to bribe the minister and permanent secretary.
Accordingly, a decision was taken by the Ministry to fine Golden Lead D1 million instead of the mandatory D5 million according to Malagen.
According to the investigation between “2018 and July 2020 the authorities have arrested at least 32 fishing trawlers for infringements in the waters,” but surprisingly “none of the cases was taken to court.”
Punishment for breaching the conditions of licence vessels ranges from D5 million to D25 million.
Fisheries officials are arguably causing revenue loss of millions of dalasis for failing to take these cases to court where appropriate fines will be issued to wrongdoers.