By Rohey Jadama
Mr. Momodou Sabally , who is also former Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service is being tried on Economic Crimes before Justice Emmanuel Amadi of the Criminal Division of the Banjul High Court.
In his testimony Mr. Graham the seventh prosecution witness (PW7), told the court that he is the Managing Director of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation(SSHFC) and he lives in Kololi. He further told the court that he can recognise the accused person in the dock.
PW7 told the court that sometime in May 2014 he received a call from Momodou Sabally informing him of a project by one Mariama Sillah. He said the accused requested that they look into the project, assess the project and see whether it falls within their corporate social investment and if the project falls within their purview they may proceed with the outcome of their assessment.
He said after that Mariama Sillah came to their office with the project documents and he called the Acting Director, Public Relations Officer and the Director of Finance and Investment of SSHFC and he formed a team with them to listen to the presentation of Ms. Sillah.
He said Ms. Sillah made a lengthy presentation and after the discussion, questions and answers relating to the project she was asked to go and the team will further assess the presentation or submission and that she will be called again after due processing of her submission. Mr. Graham said the next day he travelled abroad but the team continued with the assessment of the project under the chairmanship of the Deputy Managing director of SSHFC by the name of Saibatou Faal.
He said after he came back, the Deputy Managing Director of SSHFC then handed back to him the matter concerning the project among other things.
At this juncture Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Hadi Saleh Barkum asked the witness whether if the project document is shown to him he will recognise it. It was shown to him and he said he recognised it. The DPP applied to tender it as an exhibit. However there was no objection from defence counsel Antouman Gaye. It was marked as Exhibit B3
The SSHFC’s MD said Ms. Sillah was called again and after due discussion with her she was allowed to leave and the amount applied for was reduced by 23%; the Deputy Managing director approved the amount and drew a cheque for it and sent it with a covering letter to Mariama Sillah, copied to the president’s office and to the relevant files.
The DPP applied to tender the letter of approval and the letter conveying the approval, there was no objection from the defence counsel. The said documents were admitted and marked as Exhibits B4 and B5.
Continuing his testimony, he told the court that the project was monitored by the Acting Public Relations Officer of SSHFC. He disclosed that Mariama Sillah is the head of the project and that is all he knew about her.
Under cross-examination by defence counsel Antouman Gaye, the witness was asked whether the accused dealt with him in his official capacity. The witness responded in the positive. “Part of the functions of your corporation is in the investment of youth development”, Barrister Gaye Quizzed witness. “Yes”, responded the witness.
The witness was asked whether by the time Mariama Sillah was presenting the panel stopped her and told her to go. The witness responded in the negative. “Is it correct that the panel could have rejected the proposal”, asked Lawyer Gaye. Before the witness could answer DPP objected to this question, arguing that it is an opinion. He added that asking the witness whether they could have rejected the presentation is more of an opinion than factual. He cited section 66 of the Evidence Act to support his arguments.
The trial judge however, overruled the objection, adding that the said section of the Evidence Act relied on by the DPP is not applicable to the question and the witness was allowed to answer the question.
Answering the said question the witness said, “if the team deems it fit to reject it.” The witness was asked what the project was about. Responding to the question the witness said it is about Youth Career Development. He was asked whether when the money was reduced to 23% the corporation paid D402,500. The witness responded in the positive.
The case was adjourned till today 14th May, 2015 at 1pm for continuation of hearing.