YDE OWES GPA OVER D16M Construction & Refurbishment of Kanilai Cultural Arena Exceeded D6M

By Mamadou Dem

The Deputy Director of Gambia Ports Authority, Ousman Jobarteh, while continuing his testimony before the Janneh Commission, revealed that there are outstanding sums owed to the GPA by the Youth Development Empowerment exceeding sixteen million dalasi.

According to Mr. Jobarteh, this was in relation to goods imported by the former President. He also told the commission that the construction, expansion and refurbishment of Kanilai Cultural Arena also exceeded six million dalasi.

Prior to Jobarteh’s revelations, Cherno Marena, Solicitor General and Legeal Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, gave evidence in respect arbitrations and determination of Carnagie Minerals Company’s contract. He said a total amount of costs awarded to Carnagie minerals was between 22M to 23M US Dollars; that after the award, the former Government challenged the decision of the court and the award has not been granted because government filed annulment proceedings in 2015.

According to Marena, the former Government was represented by Mayer Brown Legal Firm and the legal cost or fees were €971, 000.00. Mr. Marena at that point produced the invoice of the email correspondence of the legal cost to the commission which were admitted and marked as exhibits.

However, he explained that the case was mentioned at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) but couldn’t remember were this tribunal sits; that he needed time to find out where exactly the proceedings took place. “It’s either in Europe or North America,” he assumed.

At that juncture a document bearing heavy mineral account of Carnegie Mining Company was shown to the witness which Mr. Marena confirmed was in connection to the annulment proceedings between the company and the former Government, where the latter was required to pay the sum of $200,000.00

He said he believed the payments of over D4.2 million were in relation to the payments of the annulment fees by the former Government. “The annulment proceedings has been suspended but might come up next week,” he disclosed

Mr. Marena testified that it was a mystery for him when he heard that Mr. Muhammed Bazi and Euro Africa Group paid the legal fees on behalf of the government. Mr. Marena was asked by counsel what benefit government seeks to achieve in pursuant of this case. In response, Mr. Marena said the case was during the former administration and the current government needs to advise itself on the matter.

Mr. Ousman Jobarteh, Deputy Director of the Gambia Ports Authority testified that the Youth Development Enterprise (YDE) was in existence up to 2010. He said there were transactions of vessels carrying goods such as rice, sugar, cement, flour and cattle, imported by Kanilai Family Farm, but the services provided to them were not paid.

He said there are outstanding sums of money owed to the Ports Authority by KFF from 2009-2013, amounting to D11, 480,194.28. According to him, the then Managing Director of GPA dealt directly with the office of the president in respect to CFA transactions.

The Gambia Ferry Services Management Terminal book dated 3rd December 2015-2016, Memoranda of liquidation and Memoranda of CFA sales to ex-president Jammeh by the GPA were admitted as exhibits. GPA provides management and financial support to Gambia Ferry Services (GFS).

With regard to the Kanilai Cultural Arena, services were provided and procurement was made for its construction and rehabilitation. At that point counsel to the commission applied for the summary of expenditure in relation to Kanilai Cultural Arena to be admitted. “I received telephone calls from the Managing Director of GPA informing me that the office of the then President requested for CFA sales. General Badjie and Major Yusupha Sanneh collected the CFA. We received verbal instructions from the OP,” he explained.

Mr. Jobarteh further explained that the Director of Finance wrote several memos to the office of the President asking for the payments of these monies. However he said he’s not aware of any letter emanating from the former MD Modou Lamin Gibba and Lamin Sanyang, in respect to the recovery of the money owed to them by KFF and the former President’s Office respectively.

At that juncture, documents showing outstanding sums owed by KFF and OP were admitted as evidence. Receipts of Ferry Services Company were also admitted.

The deputy Director of Ports revealed that both Aljamdou and Kansala ferries were bought as joint ventures under the directives of former president Jammeh, at a tune of over €7,000 000.00; that unfortunately, the ferries are not operational because they are not suitable for the environment.

Mr. Jobarteh informed members of the Commission that over six and a half million was spent for the procurement of construction materials for the Kanilai Cultural Arena. Summary of expenditures on the Arena accompanied with a cover letter were exhibited. He added that when a vessel docks with consignments belonging to KFF, the MD will instruct finance for invoices to be raised.

He however acknowledges that the correct procedure was for the receiver in Banjul to make payments prior to the discharge of the consignments but for KFF, vessels will be discharged without payments. All invoices and supporting documents relating to KFF were tendered by counsel.  He said the finance department followed KFF for payments but to no avail.

“I did not bring the letters soliciting payments from KFF by finance and there were different shipping agencies for different vessels,” said Jobarteh.

At that juncture, Manifest, bill of lading of cement imported by the former president in the name of KFF from Gambia Shipping Agency were also tendered and admitted including KFF Port charges from 2009 – 2013.

On Youth Development Enterprise, Jobarteh said he has no document to show to the Commission but the debt owed was over sixteen million dalasi and the correspondence will show the involvement of the ex-president in the affairs of YDE. Meanwhile Mr. Jobarteh was asked by counsel to avail the Commission with more supporting documents in connection with importations made by KFF.

Mr. Foday Jatta, Deputy Director of Procurement, GPA lives in Fajikunda and was summoned in relation to Kanilai Cultural Arena. He testified that from 2009- 2016, they received requests from the Estate Management of GPA, for the construction and renovation of Kanilai Cultural Arena. “I made sure that we collected a pro forma from a supplier and the Director of the Estate Management signed to confirm that we have delivered the materials needed,” Jatta explained.

“I have the departmental requisition form of the estate department as well as the invoices. I have never been to the arena and cannot explain the condition of the said arena but they always make demands for building and refurbishment of the arena,” said the witness.

Departmental requisition forms from 2009- 2016 together with other relevant documents were admitted but there was no transaction in 2013. “We came up with a final figure for the completion of the arena which was over seven million and twenty-three thousand dalasi,” he disclosed.

He however noted, that he has no idea whether claims were made with regard to these expenditures. Revised summary of expenditures on the arena were also admitted.

Ismaila Wadda, Director of Finance at the Gambia Ferry Services, said the ferry service is a subsidiary to the Gambia Ports Authority and is answerable to the Managing Director of the Ports Authority. He said the role he played regarding CFA transactions was, when he received directives from the Managing Director of the GPA, he will contact the chief cashier to hand over the money to the deputy director of GPA; that he will have documents of the transactions, after handing over the money to the deputy director.

According to him, between December 2013- 2014, they sold CFA 222,000,000.00 noting that they have different sets of accounts at GPA but he has never dealt with anyone at the office of the former President.

Next to testify was Muhammed Lamin Gibba, former Managing Director of GPA who informed the Commission that he is currently unemployed but he solely relies on his pension benefits because he was terminated. This response came when Mr. Gibba was asked by counsel Bensouda to explain his source of living since he was unemployed.

Mr. Gibba testified that he was appointed as MD at GPA from October 2004 -2011 and later redeployed in 2012; that he finally got the sack in 2016. He said during his tenure as MD, CFA use to be sold to the ex-president; that he received calls from Jammeh asking him whether they sell CFA to the public and institutions and he responded in the affirmative. He said the former president then asked him about the procedures but he intimated to him that there was a committee responsible for those transactions.

“Jammeh asked me whether I was part of the committee but I said no because I did not want to influence the decision of the committee. I explained to him how we sell CFA to banks and the general public,” Gibba expounded.

At that juncture, Mr. Gibba provided the commission with financial transactions with the former president through General Badjie and Major Yusupha Sanneh. “Due to confidentially, I assigned Ousman Jobarteh to take the CFA together with the transactions documents to State House,” said Mr. Gibba.

“The said documents were never taken to the office of the Secretary General but instead taken to Major Yusupha Sanneh and General Badjie, who acted as mediators. I had difficulties contacting ex-president Jammeh regarding payments of the outstanding amounts owed to GPA,” said the former MD.

When asked what achievements he made during his tenure as the MD of the Ports Authority, Mr. Gibba responded that he would not blow his own trumpet regarding the achievements made during his tenure as the MD at the Ports Authority. He however outlined significant achievements particularly in the areas of awarding scholarship to students, among other things.

“I always endeavour to serve my country and the GPA without fear or favour affection or ill will,” he finally told the Commission.

Session continues on Monday, 4th September, 2017.