By: Binta Bah
Mr. Alagie Abdoulie Kebbeh, telecom engineer and consultant recently reappeared before the commission in connection to a contract between Gamtel and Multimedia Gateway Incorporation (MGI).
According to him, the said contract was signed by BallaJassey and Babucarr Jabbai, in October 2014, stating that the purpose of the contract was for the implementation of the gateway.
Testifying before the inquiry, Mr Kebbeh revealed that he had the contract documents of MGI for the management of Gamtel international gateway.
However he said he did not have the memorandum and article of association of the company.
The telecom expert at that point produced correspondences which included the duty waiver for Mobicell and other documents relating to the contract and other projects which were address to the Secretary General. He added that the contracts were not subjected to competitive bidding.
He also informed the commission that there was a duty waiver on MGI contract and they did not find out whether they were paying corporate taxes; adding that the taskforce report did not look into the issue of tax for MGI in Switzerland or its subsidiary company in The Gambia.
Rectifying his previous testimony on the payment received by MGI from Gamtel gateway proceeds he pointed out that the sum of $600,000 was effected from the 1st of June, 2014 to 31st December, 2014 and also $800,000 up to the end of 2016 when the contract started.
Dwelling further, Kebbeh said Gamtel did not benefit from the contract and that all the monies went to Spectrum. He revealed that Gamtel had no autonomy to manage the company; adding that the monies went to CBG and not to Gamtel.
Mr. Kebbeh testified that they did not suggest to the former Government to sell Gamtel shares. He said what he meant by ‘autonomy’ was that Gamtel should decide on matters concerning Gamtel and the management of the gateway. He recollected that Gamtel was among the best companies in terms of communication in Africa after South Africa.
He assumed that if the company enjoyed ‘autonomy’ it would regain its lost glory. He said the companies that signed contract with Gamtel for the management of gateway were not investors but business group who showed potential in the national telecom company.
According to him, the shareholders of Gamtel (Government) seized the revenue of the company and interfered with its affairs which had affected the company. He said Gamtel’s debt was about 1 Billion dalasis.
Meanwhile, documents relating to the management service reports as well as certificates of incorporation were admitted in evidence.
Kebbeh who was part of the taskforce constituted by the former president, Yahya Jammeh, claimed that the revenue generated from the gateway was used for development purposes. According to him, there is need for the national telecom to be autonomous and also to manage the gateway on its own.
Next to testify was Mr. Abdoulie Jallow Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance who reappeared in connection to the disbursement of $5,000,000 to a central bank account. He told the commission that they could not establish the beneficiary of the said amount.
According to him, the normal procedure was to follow their tender procedure and when it was finalized, the supervisor or the Government consultant authorized or certify for payments. However on a $35,000,000 loan, he said they did not have any evidence that the Ministry of Finance was involved.
Commission’s counsel, Amie Bensouda told him that in 1999, there were grants signed by the government but the witness responded that grants were handled by the office of the former president; adding that he did not know anything regarding Republic of China on Taiwan and The Gambia protocols.
It was put to him by Counsel Bensouda that substantial grants were made by Taiwan. In response, he said most of the grants were involved in the development assistance; adding that his ministry was fully involved in grants given to The Gambia as it must be included in the estimates presented to the National Assembly and were treated under Revenue and Grants Section.
However, Mr. Jallow revealed to the commission that his ministry did not play any role in the grants granted by Republic of China on Taiwan, because the ministry was not involved in grants prior to 2013.
He said from 17th July, 2009 to 1st December, 2009 there was a repurchase by the former government of Spectrum shares to the tune of $5,000,000.
Mr. Ebrima O Camara, former Secretary General, Head of the Civil Service who was summoned in connection to Gamtel gateway contracts, informed the commission that he was recently appointed as Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but prior that, he also served at the office of the former president from 2002-2009 as Principal Economist.
Dwelling on the subject matter, he confirmed that he signed the contract agreement between Gamtel and Tell and according to him, there was a meeting at the office of the former president and he was called in by the former president and told that a group of investors would take over the management of the gateway.
He informed Commissioners that he was told that the agreement was to be sign on the same day, as the investors were to leave and he then signed on behalf of Gamtel. He added that he was redeployed in May 2011 to the Embassy in Brussels, Belgium.
The witness further testified that he never met the management of Spectrum but was of the view that Tell and Spectrum had some linkage; adding that Mr. Muhammed Bazzi introduced Tell Company to the former President and there was a popular opinion that Bazzi was part of Spectrum.
Responding to Mrs. Bensouda, Mr. Camara testified that it was the responsibility of the Secretary General to inform him about the outcome of Spectrum Gamtel relationship as all correspondences were channeled through the Secretary General.
Documents relating to settlement of disputes between the two companies among others were admitted in evidence. According to him, Gamtel paid the sum of D300, 000 for the MGI project but they have not received any funds from the Ministry of Finance for the project of telecommunication facility.