The Government of the Gambia has accepted the recommendations of the Janneh Commission that Feryale Diab Ghanem (alias Ms Laly Diab) and her family company – Emporium to be banned from participating in any Government procurement for five (5) years. See the decision of the Gambia Government below:
Ms. Feryale Diab Ghanem is commonly known as Laly Diab. Ms. Diab is the Managing Director of Emporium, a department store, which is a family business run by her. Ms. Diab was declared a closed associated of former President Jammeh on 5th June 2018.
The Commission found, inter alia, that Ms. Diab had financial dealings with former President Jammeh. In particular, she was chosen personally by former President Jammeh to start and run some of his private businesses. In 2003, without any previous experience, her family company Emporium was awarded the contract to renovate Ocean Bay Hotel. The Company was incorporated only after it was awarded the contract. In 2008, she was appointed Managing Director of the Unique Transport System Company (UTSCO). The shareholders of UTSCO were Sindola Safari Lodge, KFF, KGI, and Zineb Jammeh. In 2009, she was appointed General Manager of Sindola resort until it was place under receivership in 2017. In 2010, she incorporated Sindola, KGI and KFF by instructing a private practitioner of her choice and signed as a witness on the incorporation documents. The Commission noted that Ms. Diab admitted to having no previous experience in transportation or hospitality, and that Mr Amadou Samba was a family friend.
The Commission found that Ms Diab represented and assisted former President Jammeh to illegally acquire the Management Services Agency (MSA) of the Government for $1.3 million; that all the buses owned by UTSCO were purchased from funds in excess of $2,344,065 fraudulently taken from Central Bank of The Gambia by former President Jammeh; that when Sindola was incorporated, Ms Diab transferred UTSCO’s account at FI Bank to Sindola Safari Lodge Ltd in June 2010. The signatories to the Sindola account were Ms. Diab (General Manager) and Mr Amadou Samba; that UTSCO took over MSA with a stock of tractors and spares purchased from Exim Bank of India loan of $6.7 million. 108 tractors were handed over to Ms. Diab on behalf of UTSCO. The assembled tractors were delivered to KGI and sold without any part of the proceeds paid to Government to service the loan. The loan had to be paid from public funds.
Moreover, the Commission found that in 2002, Emporium was invited by SSHFC to submit a bid for the renovation of the Ocean Bay Hotel. It is not clear how Ms. Diab came to be invited because neither the Emporium nor Ms Diab had done a project of that nature. The managing director of SSHFC, Mr. Andrew Sylva, recommended her company for the award of the contract over a competing company, BAO Ltd. against the Consultant’s recommendations. Her company was told to proceed with the renovations before the Board of Social Security approved it. The Emporium Construction Company was only incorporated after the bid for the Ocean Bay Contract was awarded to her for $6.5 million in March 2003, and minor variation worth $1,053,837 were also awarded to Emporium. The Commission noted that it was the biggest contract Emporium has ever had to date. The Commission found that even though there was a delay in completing and handing over the Works, no liquidated damages of $3,000 per day was applied by SSHFC’s management.
The Commission particularly noted that Ms Diab had a meeting at Gamwater Office with the Chairman of the Board, Amadou Samba, whom she considered a family friend, and the Consultant of the project a week after the Board had awarded her the contract. The Commission found that fair and competitive bidding process was not followed in the award of the contract for refurbishment and upgrade of Ocean Bay Hotel by SSHFC to Emporium Construction and Furnishing Ltd. for $6,500,000. The Commission also took note that Emporium furnished former President Jammeh’s home in Kanilai, and was also awarded contracts without compliance with any procurement rules. These included some renovation works in the Cabinet Room and VIP Lounge, and the supply of curtains. None of these contracts were tendered.
The Government accepts the findings of the Commission in so far as it relates to Ms Laly Diab. Accordingly, the Government accepts the recommendations of the Commission that Ms Laly Diab/Emporium and former President Jammeh are jointly and severally liable for at least the amounts of $2,344,065, and $3000 per day for the number of days delay as per the contract with SSHFC, as well as the losses to the State arising from the sale of the 108 tractors she took over.
Consequently, Ms Laly Diab/Emporium is hereby ordered to pay back to the State the said sums within 30 days of the publication of this White Paper failing which her properties shall be forfeited to the State and sold. The proceeds of the sale shall be applied to the payment of monies for which Ms Laly Diab, and all companies associated with her, are found liable in the Report, in addition to criminal proceedings to be initiated against her.
Furthermore, the government accepts the recommendation of the Commission that Ms Laly Diab and Emporium be banned, and Ms Laly and Emporium, are hereby banned from participating in any Government procurement for five (5) years from the date of publication of this White Paper.
In accepting these recommendations, the Government had averted its mind to its position elsewhere in this White Paper that the primary responsibility for compliance with procurement rules rests with the State and that the State’s failure to adhere to procurement rules cannot be visited on 3rd parties. However, in Ms Diab’s case, the Government cannot ignore the special circumstances surrounding the award of contracts to her without adherence to procurement rules. For instance, the manner in which Emporium was awarded a contract of $6.5 million for the renovation of Ocean Bay Hotel not having invited by SSHFC to submit a bid; the meeting between Mr Amadou Samba, Ms Diab and the consultant at Mr Samba’s Gamwater Office after the award of the bid; the advice of the consultant against the awarding the bid to Emporium; the friendship between Miss Diab and Mr Amadou; and the fact that Ms Diab was also appointed General Manager of UTSCO and Sindola Resort despite having no previous experience in transportation or hospitality, cumulatively suggests more than just an ordinary act of ‘single sourcing’. The totality of the circumstances suggests a well-orchestrated conspiracy between Ms Diab, Mr Amadou Samba, and former President Jammeh to defraud the State.