By Baba Sillah
Sheriff Sawaneh, a contractor and the managing director of Competence and Protein Product Company Limited yesterday appeared before the Janneh Commission to explain the numerous contracts and payments awarded to him by the office of the president.
Mr Sawaneh in his testimony told the commission that the company was incorporated in 2004 and he has a 45% share while his partner, Philip Collins, a British, has 51% share but the company has stopped operations about eight years ago.
The Commission counsel, Amie Bensouda at that point applied documents relating to the company, business registration certificate, memorandum of association and certificate of incorporation as exhibits.
Mr Sawaneh also said they registered four companies in the Gambia; namely Competence Company, General Council and Services, Protein Product and Food Company but could not remember the name of the fourth company.
He testified that Protein Product and Food Company was involved in the processing of peanuts and exporting them to the United Kingdom which was located around Denton Bridge but the Company was later liquidated.
Asked by counsel Bensouda how many accounts his company possessed, he said they have bank statements of Arab Gambian Islamic Bank (AGIB), Zenith Bank, Trust Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank and First International Bank respectively and he does business with some of these banks.
On the payments of D1,937,346, D730, 250, D200, 000, D4.4 million from the Tax Recovery Account at Trust Bank and the sums of D795, 000, D245, 000 and D1,075,000 from Carnegie Sand Mining Accounts respectively, Mr Sawaneh said these payments were in respect of contracts awarded to him by the Office of the President including the payments from GNPC and International Gateway accounts.
Among the contracts he said were the renovations of Ministry of Justice and Cabinet Room, construction of Republican National Guard Office (RNG) formerly Medical and Health headquarters, Battery Flat Apartment at State House and the residence of the former president.
According to Mr Sawaneh, the sum of D245,000 was for the payment of the renovation of the Cabinet Room while D9,996, 360 was for the renovation of Battery Flat Apartment at State House and D13,887,729 was for the construction of Republican National Guard where General Sulayman Badjie had his office.
Mr Sawaneh further revealed that the sum of D200,000 could be the retention of contract regarding the Cabinet room. On whether he conducted any private contract for the ex-president, he responded in the affirmative and added that he renovated a three-storey building for the former president in Kanilai at a tune of D4.5 million and the fencing of Farato Farm.
He said he was also contracted by Gamworks for the construction of a market in Bwiam noting that his company is classified under Class B contractor but couldn’t show the commission a document identifying the company as such.
On the payment of D3,421,462 from International Gateway Account, he said he thought it was an advanced payment for the renovation of Justice Department but he was however asked to provide the commission with the entire list of contracts and payments awarded to him by the Office of the President together with his company’s tax clearance certificate.
Mr Sawaneh further told the commission that he never bid for any contract with the Office of the President but because of the quality of his work, the contracts were awarded to him without bidding and not because he had connections at the Office of the President.
Abdoulie Jallow, permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance reappeared before the commission yesterday with regard to the Mahindra tractors.
PS Jallow said the sum of $5,800,000 was withdrawn from the total loan and it will mature in 20 years with interest ranging from 2006. He was however asked to bring complete documents for the transactions and loan agreement between The Gambia Government and Indian government. He is expected to reappear on Thursday and he promised to find out whether the said loan was ratified by the National Assembly.
Next to reappear was Tony Ghattas, former managing director of APAM who tendered management plan of APAM as well as share transfers of Ghatson Company Limited. He was cross-examined by counsel Bensouda on the documents his lawyer, Sheriff Tambadou submitted to the commission last week.
Bensouda asked Mr Ghattas to explain a payment made to one Mr Mbacke amounting to €1,065,000 which Ghattas said was in connection to the purchase of a machine relating to mining activities and the said sum was transferred from Guaranty Trust Bank.
Mr Ghattas further explained that the sum of $1,098,000 was the total transaction for a machine used for mining in Sanyang South and at the time of signing the agreement for APAM, the equipment was not delivered but counsel told him as per the agreement the equipment was already in The Gambia but Ghattas refuted that claim.
He disclosed that he still does business in Senegal but he’s not involved in mining heavy mineral concentrate (HMC). He added that the sum of $150,000 stated in a profoma invoice was paid in cash to Chinese mining company based in China.
At that juncture, counsel told the witness that he was not telling the truth to the commission because what he earlier told the commission was different from what he was saying but Ghattas insisted that he was telling the truth. Thereafter, the memorandum and articles of association of Shanghai Company was admitted as exhibits.
Mr Ghattas further testified that he could not remember the names of the Chinese staff who were working on the ground at the mining sites and were paid the sum of $2,500 monthly salary. He said he will provide the list of staff of his company which to the commission.
Sittings continues today.