By Tabora Bojang
The chairman of the board of directors of the Gambia Tourism Board yesterday testified at the Public Petitions Committee of the National Assembly probing corruption allegations at the board.
Batch Samba Faye who was appointed chairman of the GTB in July 2020 following the removal of Abdoulie Touray was called to testify on the allocation of land to MOAB Capital Company.
The petitioners who are employees of the board, alleged that the allocation of the land to MOAB has been a subject of corruption involving former director-general Abdoulie Hydara and finance director Ousainou Senghore.
The petition claimed that the process violated land application procedures since the MOAB has not paid the US$200,000 development levy, despite receiving a lease document.
“The applicant is represented by CEO Binta Sompo Ceesay and was issued a provisional offer of land in the TDA. The applicant was advised to pay US$200,000 for land in a prime area of the TDA measuring 124m x 110m x 124m x 109m, and a 5 percent development levy but she has not up to today paid a single penny. Worse of all, even though the conditions for allocation states that a sub lease of the land will only be provided upon the applicant’s completion of the construction of his or her project, this applicant was issued a sub lease on the 5th of July 2019. This is in gross violation of the land application procedures and has not only exposed the corrupt practices of the former director-general and the director of finance but also cost the board significant loss of money,” the petition stated.
Chairman Faye confirmed to lawmakers that he signed a reallocation document that provided for a new land to be provided to MOAB since there was a double allocation.
“I was told that the land belongs to the Ministry of Information but it was taken over by ex-president Jammeh and when the Janneh Commission came they reverted it back to GT Board and the board allocated it to MOAB. The Ministry of Communication came later and claimed that it is their land and as a result GT Board reallocated MOAB another place. This was why it was brought for me to sign.”
Asked whether a development levy was paid, Faye replied that the 5 % development levy amounting to US$200,000 was paid on May 28th 2019.
According to him, he was not aware of any sub lease document being given to the investor.
The committee asked if he would be surprised to know that the investor has not effected the payment.
Chairman Faye replied: “Well I will be surprised because this is the information that I got from the office. So, I will be very surprised if the investor says she did not pay it. This can easily be proven because there must be a receipt at the board which you can request.”
Asked whether it would not have been proper for him to have verified that the investor paid before signing the reallocation, Mr Faye said he had to rely on what he was told since the previous allocations were not made during his term.
“This is provisional and it was not finalised so it can be subject to change” he added.