Saturday, December 9, 2023

‘I Wanted To Generate Income For Gamtel,’ Former MD


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By Mamadou Dem

Mr. Babucarr Sanyang, former Managing Director of GAMTEL, yesterday told the ‘Janneh’ Commission that the purpose of Gamtel awarding a contract to Mobicell for the commissioning of IT equipment at the new National Assembly Building, was because he wanted to earn income for the Company.

The former Gamtel MD appeared in connection to the Gateway contracts and testified that he was the Managing Director of the Company from December 2011, to September 2013, when his service was terminated but reinstated in February 2014, and terminated in March 2017.

According to him, prior to this, he was the Deputy Managing Director of Gamtel and had served the Company for 37 years. Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda, told him that there was a contract between Gamtel and the National Assembly for the installation of Voice Over Internet Protocols (IPVS), at the new assembly building in Banjul. 

The witness was shown a document showing an additional work at the assembly which he confirmed to have signed; that the sum of $588,808.17 was the amount subcontracted to Mobicell Company, further noting that it was the National Assembly that sought for the approval of GPPA for the contract to be awarded to GAMTEL. 

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Mr. Sanyang testified that he signed the contract between Gamtel and the National Assembly; that there was no contract signed between Mobicell and Gamtel regarding the subcontract for the installation of the said gadgets at the National Assembly by Mobicell.
He added that he set up a team for the contract comprising officers from the customer service and technical departments of Gamtel and they initially proposed to deploy a Panasonic switchboard to avoid breaking the finished work; but that the panasonic switchboard was not suitable for the service they requested.
The former MD told the Commission that the team he set up was headed by one Sarjo Khan including some members from the Switchboard System but when asked by Counsel Bensouda who were the other members of the team, he responded that he could not remember them off head but promised to find out and furnish the Commission. 

Further testifying on the project, he disclosed that they laid a fibre cable which was supposed to handle both Data and Voice; but was later discovered that it was not suitable for the services required and a Sisco platform was proposed to them. 

At this juncture, a letter showing the receipt of offer of the award by the National Assembly was shown to him, and was put to him that there was nothing to show that the National Assembly approved the contract between Gamtel and Mobicell; that GPPA either did not approve the same contract. 

In response, he said he did not see any correspondence to show the approval by GPPA and the National Assembly for the contract to be awarded to Gamtel from Mobicell. He begged to differ with the statement made by the Director of Finance Mr. Banding Sillah, that the Finance Unit of Gamtel was not in the picture of the said project and was only authorised to effect payments by him (Sanyang). 

When asked by Counsel Bensouda whether he had any authority to award a contract to the tune of $28,000,000 to Mobicell without approval from GPPA, he responded that he did not have the authority to do so without approval from the board or GPPA; that he did not have the contract documents with him but was of the belief that they could be found in the office files; that he did not also have documents justifying that Gamtel earned some money from the project. However, Mrs. Bensouda told him that Mr. Sillah confirmed that Gamtel did not generate anything from this project. 

Minutes of meeting read to the witness disclosed that he informed the National Assembly Members that Gamtel had the capacity and capabilities to execute the project. Mrs. Bensouda then asked him whether he could not ask Mobicell to deal directly with the National Assembly and he responded in the affirmative.

He however said he was after the interest of his Company generating some funds; that the proprietor of Mobicell Group is one Balla Jassey whom he came to know in 2006. According to Mr. Sanyang, Mr. Jassey was contracted with the commissioning of the AU Submit network system in The Gambia.

Responding to Commissioner Abiosseh George, he said it was an oversight for not signing a contract with Mobicell; that the system at the National Assembly is autonomous and were advised to commission a generator, should in case NAWEC goes off. 

He informed the Commission that there was an incomplete work at the assembly but it was almost finished because NAM members requested for additional equipment to be installed, such as CCTV’s, which he said contributed to the delay of the project and payments as well. 

The former Gamtel boss revealed that they put a mark-up on the offer given to them by Mobicell and sold it to the National Assembly. However Commissioner George told him that it was an expensive risk by Gamtel in the execution of the NAM project because members from the finance and legal units were not part of the team. 

Further responding to Commissioners, he told Commissioner Bai Mass Saine that the National Assembly was aware that the project was outsourced to Mobicell but they never raised any objection; that his team and Mobicell were all managing it together, as the National Assembly had an issue with payments from the Ministry of Finance. 

He finally testified that the system at State House was directly under the office of the former president but did not recommend for Mobicell to work directly with State House. “I wanted to generate money for my Company from Gamtel-Mobicell-National Assembly contract,” he told the Commission. 

Earlier, Mr. Banding Sillah, Director of Finance at GAMTEL, reappeared in connection to the Gamtel Gateway contracts and testified that he showed an IPVS System that had to do with the Switchboard at Gamtel. He dwelled on the contract between Gamtel-Mobicell and the National Assembly. 

According to him, he knew the contract through an email informing them that a contract had been signed between Gamtel and the National Assembly; that he was disconnected from the system. 

He further testified that there was a part payment of D14,000,000 and called the former NIA boss and asked what happened; that the former NIA boss told him that the contract was between Gamtel and the National Assembly and that Gamtel had subcontracted the contract to Mobicell.

The Finance Director revealed that he was not privy to any contract and was told that Gamtel was given another contract by the National Assembly and the said sum of D14, 000,000 was paid to Mobicell while there was additional payment of $35,000 for late interest payment.
He said they had a procurement policy as per the GPPA Act; that if they had contracts, the procurement department of Gamtel would initiate the process internally provided, that it was not beyond D500,000; that anything more than this amount, they would invite for quotations. He said they would open a tender and there would be a tender box at Gamtel where suppliers would put in their bids and the tender would be opened which they would go through. 

According to him, there was a committee that would do the contrast and they would write to the winner. He told the Commission that there was an approval from the GPPA for the National Assembly to award the contract to Gamtel. He disclosed that Gamtel also provided similar services to other institutions for the IPVS system. 

Mr. Sillah at this juncture disclosed to the Commission that Gamtel could have done the project without subcontracting it to Mobicell; that he had two letters and one was addressed to the Clerk of the National Assembly, dated 15th January 2015.

However, he testified that he did not find a letter concerning the subcontract awarded to Mobicell by Gamtel; that the total value of the contract was D28, 000,000.

According to him, if institutions wanted services from Gamtel, they could also pay in full and take ownership of the equipment; that he did not have any document relating to the system at State House, neither was he privy to the financial status of the Gamtel-National Assembly contract. 

He however told the Commission that he was informed that Gamtel would only benefit after the commissioning of the project; that on the late payment by Gamtel, he said Mr. Sarjo Khan sent a letter to the National Assembly informing them that they were ordered to settle the bill of late payment which was to be refunded by the National Assembly. 

Mr. Sillah further revealed that Trust Bank paid Mobicell the sum of $585,807.77 as well as $35,000 as late payment; that they had written to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice for legal opinion on Gamtel, Mobicell and National Assembly contract for Mobicell not finishing the project which was fully paid for.
He finally testified that he did not come across any document showing that the National Assembly agreed for the contract given to Gamtel to be subcontracted to Mobicell. 

Mr. Dodou C.M. Kebbeh, the Clerk of the National Assembly, testified on the same subject matter.  

Hearing continues today.

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