Thursday, August 11, 2022

At The ‘Janneh’ Commission Solicitor General, Former Secretary General Testify


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By Mamadou Dem

Messrs. Cherno Marena, Solicitor General and Kalilu Bayo, former Secretary General and Head of the Civil Service, yesterday reappeared before the Janneh Commission of Enquiry, to continue with their evidence.

Mr. Bayo continuing with his testimony, disclosed that the €65,000.00 payment from Sky Bank Gambia Limited, was in respect of a video documentary made for the former president as well as the payment to BPI Tourism and the Syrian Doctors respectively.

Mr. Bayo however testified that he did not know how the Syrian doctors came into the country neither does he have any knowledge regarding them. On the issue of the supply of gold coins from Dubai to the former president for the celebration of 22nd July, he said he did not know how they were supplied and what their intended purpose was, despite the documents for the supply bears his signature.

Counsel Anna Njie at that juncture applied to tender the documents relating to the supply of the gold coins by the former president which was paid from the GNPC dollar account at GT Bank, as exhibit. The gold coins according to lawyer Njie were for the celebrations of the 20th Anniversary of the July 22nd Coup d’etat but Bayo maintained that he did not know the purpose of the gold coins and neither does he know where they were delivered, because it did not come through his office as the then Secretary General.

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According to him when the then president goes for private holidays, he withdrew money from his account. However, he pointed out that the then president should not be a signatory to any account but rather he was only supposed to append his signature on bills to enable them become laws and not signing of cheques.

The witness further claimed that for the past 22 years, they were operating in a volatile situation as the former president does whatever he feels like; that if one knows the temperament of the former president who has a short temper, it was difficult to advise him on certain matters. He informed Commissioners that when he was appointed SG, he found the president’s practice was entrenched and his signatory to accounts was abnormal necessitating him to summon a meeting with the minister of finance and staff under his purview in order to enable the president know the status of those accounts and how transactions were made; but that nothing came out of his suggestions until he was removed from office and he did not know whether that was the reason that led to his removal. He finally testified that if travelling allowances were made at all, then it was supposed to come from the national budget but he could not tell whether payments on gold coins among others, made to the former president, were official or not.

Mr. Cherno Marena reappearing before the Commission for the second time dwelled on arbitrations involving Gambia Government and Conarpro Company Limited. He said Gambia Feed and Food industry Project was subjected to arbitration in 2010; that Conarpro investors had a contract with the then Government for the supply of heavy fuel to GNPC, but that the contract was terminated by the then Government and the Company claimed the sum of $32,000,000.00 for damages and the case was going on until when the new Government came into power, when the Attorney General decided to enter into an agreement, and the sum of  $4.6 million was paid  after a legal tussle in the United Kingdom.

According to SG Marena, the office of the SG was informed when the settlement was reached but he did not know the exact conclusion of the office of the SG after they were informed about the settlement. At that point documents relating to arbitration, settlement, claims by the CONARPRO Company and other informations were admitted as exhibits.

Mr. Marena further recalled that GFFI was supposed to be owned by the then Government as far as the settlement agreement was concerned, noting that there was no legal advice regarding the contract between the then Government and CONARPRO which he said, was signed by the office of the former president.

On Gallia Holding’s Joint Venture for the purchase of two ferries, he said the arbitration arose after the ferries were purchased and they could not operate and the Company offered to sell their shares amounting to €4.2 million but their offer was rejected by the then Government. He said the Company also claimed loss of profit and the arbitration was challenged which he said is still ongoing but they are yet to have the bill of claim; that they have met the Ministry of Justice for negotiations but their claim could not be met by Government.

Mr. Marena finally testified that hearing has not started since 2012 but the parties were given the opportunity to negotiate out of arbitration and the cabinet has been informed about the arbitration the new Government has inherited.

Testifying earlier, the Managing Director of GT Bank, Mr. Bolaji who was summoned in connection with Gamveg Company which has a dalasi, dollar and Euro accounts in the said bank. He said the account is operated by one Husseine, Amadou Samba, Muhammed Bazzi and Fadi Mazegi. Mr. Bolagi informed the Commission that he has the statement of the accounts but did not have the transaction documents with him at that point; notwithstanding, documents relating to the bank accounts of the Company were admitted as exhibit.

The witness confirmed the payment of $700,000.00 by the Gambia Government into the Gamveg account in an attempt to purchase the Company by the office of the then president. He then produced letters and transactions documents, relating to the payments into the Gamveg account noting that the Company owed the bank about $3,000,000.00 and that was the reason the bank was involved in the sale of the Company.

He finally testified that KGI also approached the bank for a loan of $2,000,000.00 and SSHFC served as Guarantor for the purchase of Gamveg after the then Government’s proposal failed. Mr. Bolaji is required to avail the Commission with all transaction documents of the Company.

Mr. Abdoulie Jallow, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance testified that they consulted the Gambia Revenue Authority and the Accountant General but proceeds from the sale of the tractors were not deposited into any of the former Government’s accounts. He however revealed that when all the proceeds were accumulated, it would amount to $8.6 million.

At that juncture, bunch of documents including two letters of the Mahindra tractors maintenance services by Unique Transport System Company as well as documents instructing for MSA and GPTC to be privatized before 2008, were all admitted as exhibits. He finally testified that the evaluation on MSA in 2004 was D22 million.

Session continues today.

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