By Rohey Jadama and Fatoumatta K. Jallow
Mr. Mod Ceesay, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, testified as the sixth prosecution witness (PW6) in the ongoing criminal trial involving Sheikh Tijan Sosseh, the former Coordinator of WAAPP.
Mr Ceesay yesterday, 2nd December, 2014 gave evidence before Justice Emmanuel Amadi of the Special Criminal Division of the High Court
When the matter was called, M.B. Abubacarr and M. Mendy appeared for the state, whilst Lawyer Edward Singhatey represented the accused person.
Before the testimony of PW6, M.B Abubacarr reminded the court that he has an application before the court to call an additional witness which was filed on the 27th November and served. Counsel Singhatey however, said he is not objecting to the said application and the trial judge granted the application.
Mr. Ceesay told the court that he is a civil servant and that he is the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs and that he recognized the accused person. He said sometimes in May 2013, they received a correspondence from the World Bank in respect of the accused who is the former coordinator of the GEAPP project and later WAAPP. The first correspondence, he said, raised some issues about ineligible expenses under the GEAPP project, whilst the other one suggested that the Coordinator be replaced, adding that as the focal ministry and as the then Deputy Permanent Secretary in charge of international cooperation, he instructed one Lamin Camara to transmit the World Bank letter to the ministry of Agriculture.
“Can you elaborate more on the GEAPP project?” asked the prosecutor. “GEAPP project is an EU financed 5.3 Million Euros World Bank administered programme to the republic of the Gambia,” said PW6.
The prosecutor asked whether if those letters are shown to him he will recognise them, PW6 responded in the positive, adding that the letters from the World Bank were addressed to the Minister of Finance and the letter to the Ministry of Agriculture was signed by one Lamin Camara.
The prosecution applied to tender the three letters as exhibits and which was not objected to by the defence and were admitted and marked as exhibits H, H1 and J.
“Can you shed light on what you mean by ineligible expenses?” asked the prosecutor. “Ineligible expenses related to two issues, one is per diem payment related to the accused and the other payment made to project staff during the transition from GEAPP to WAAPP, ineligible expenses are expenses that are made in respect of goods, works or services that are not included in the list of goods, works or services in the project document, the other aspect is payment inappropriately made that is not approved. “The third dimension is payment that is made outside the project period,” said the witness.
Under cross examination, counsel Singhatey asked the witness to tell the court the difference between GEAPP and WAAPP projects. In response, PW6 told the court that the GEAPP project is the predecessor of the WAAPP and that GEAPP is a national program, whilst WAAPP is a regional program.
“Can you please tell the court what happened to the project funds at the end of the project if not fully spent?” asked counsel Singhatey.
“All un-utilised funds at the end of the project or program must be returned,” responded the witness. “Tell the court who these funds should be returned to?” asked counsel Singhatey. “To the administrator which is the World Bank”, responded the witness.
“The documents you just tendered, Is it correct that the queries in this exhibit were in respect of the funds allocated to the GEAPP project?” enquired lawyer Singhatey. PW6 responded in the positive.
“Is it correct that the GEAPP project has been concluded at the time the ineligible expenses were made?” he asked. “Yes,” responded PW6.
“ Is it correct to say that the ineligible expenses were made from funds belonging to the donors ; EU and the World Bank and not Gambia government?” he asked. “The balance of the funds after the end of the GEAPP project was to be returned to the donors and there were ineligible expenses made during the project period,”, PW6 replied.
Counsel asked, “Can the Project Coordinator approve expenditures of project funds on his own or does he have to seek approval to do so?” The witness replied, “Approvals is at different levels, all approvals above his approval limits will require approval from the World Bank and the Gambia Government.”
“Is it correct that queries on per diem payment of staffs were explained in exhibit J which is from the ministry of Agriculture?” aske the defence counsel. “Yes your worship,” replied the witness.
Counsel asked, “Is it not correct that the ministry of Finance is in possession of that letter?” The witness replied, “We did receive a reply for that letter.”
Counsel asked, “Now if you see the copy of that letter will you recognise it?” The witness answered, “Yes”.
The said letter was shown to the witness and he recognised it and the defence counsel then applied to tender it as an exhibit which was not objected to by the prosecution. It was marked as defence ID1.
Continuing his cross examination of PW6, counsel Singhatey asked: “Is it not correct that the GEAPP project was considered as a success by the donors?” ”PW6 responded in the positive, adding that several supervision reports and the project completion report did state that the project is successful in terms of achieving the project objectives and the project targets.
“Is it correct that due to the successful implementation of the GEAPP project by the accused and the project coordination unit that they were recommended to manage the WAAPP project? “Yes”, said the witness.
The defence counsel applied to the Court for the witness to produce the original document of the defence ID1 at the next adjourned date which was not objected to by the prosecution. The trial judge then ordered the witness to produce the said document at the next adjourned date which is Thursday, 4th December, 2014.
By Rohey Jadama and Fatoumatta K. Jallow