By Baba Sillah
The director of finance at the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, SSHFC, has yesterday revealed how the corporation’s monies totaling about two billion dalasis were diverted to become unpaid loans owed by different entities on the instruction of the former president’s office.
Abdoulie Cham said among entities to which SSHFC’s monies have been diverted to include the Gambia Radio And Television Services [GRTS), the Gambia Groundnut Corporation [GGC] and the Kanilai Group International, KGI.
According to the SSHFC finance director, GRTS owed over D37 million while the GGC owed over 222 million dalasi.
He further revealed that SSHFC spent $4,500,000 for the purchase of a state aircraft.
Mr Cham said the SSHF engaged all these entities to recover the monies but most responded that they are not responsible for the debts, rather the loans were given to them by government.
Mr Cham was then asked by the commission to provide the auditors’ reports and management report of the SSHFC for the past 7 years on his next appearance before the commission.
Recalling the numerous directives sent to the corporation by the office of the president, Cham said in September 2012 a letter emanated from the office of the former President signed by Njogu L Bah, asking social security to give a loan amounting to $4,500,000 equivalent to D152, 000,000 for the purchase of an aircraft for the state.
He said there was an earlier letter dated 28 August 2012 from the same office requesting the same SSHFC to disburse the sum of D10, 000, 000 as additional payments for the purchase of an aircraft.
Mr Cham disclosed that there was an agreement between Gambia Government and SSHFC concerning these loans. When asked who the beneficiaries were in respect to the purchase of the aircraft he said Insure Aircraft. “I never saw the aircraft and I don’t know whether it was purchased neither do I know whether it was delivered,” said Cham.
He said there were further instructions from the office of the president for funds to be disbursed to the office of the President in respect to the same aircraft. “The total outstanding sum owed to SSHFC for the acquisition of the aircraft is over D152, 000,000.00,” he revealed.
He said he does not have documentation on the acquisition of the aircraft and it wasn’t their responsibility to ensure that the aircraft was in place because there was no binding contract between Social Security and the supplier but rather the office of the former president. He added that the loan agreement between Gambia Government and SSHFC was signed by Nuha Touray, former Secretary to Cabinet, Njogu L Bah and Edward Graham, former Managing Director of SSHFC.
Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda applied to tender documents on 4.5M Dollars for the purchase of the aircraft from the National Provident Funds (NPF) as well as the loan agreement between GGC and SSHFC and related documents as exhibits.
When Commissioner Saine put to him that Social Security assisted in the defrauding of the pensions fund, the witness disagreed with him, saying that there were correspondences between SSHFC and the Ministry of Finance but Saine told him that he had every right to stop giving out loans because the six loans given out by SSHFC were never paid.
However Mr Cham said he couldn’t stop the loan and he acted in compliance with his managing director.
Commissioner Saine insisted that being the director of finance, Mr Cham has ownership and responsibility to withhold loans because he had an upper hand in the negotiation to make sure that the aircraft was delivered.
In response Mr. Cham reiterated that SSHFC never had a contract with the supplier of the aircraft rather it was the office of the president, adding that SSHFC was not invited in the acquisition of the aircraft.
The next directive from office of the president according to Mr Cham, was in 2013 which was in relation to a Caf and European League Package, 2013-2014 amounting to a sum of €200, 000, 00 equivalent to D9,152,000 meant for GRTS to broadcast the games.
He explained that the loan agreement was between SSHFC and GRTS but GRTS refused to pay on the grounds that the request was from office of the president and not the national broadcaster. This loan according to him was also from the National Provident Funds
At that point, documents relating to the €200,000 Caf, European League 2013-2014 were admitted as exhibits.
Mr Cham further recalled that there was another request from the office of the president for the Gambia Groundnut Corporation (GGC) but prior to that, he said the Ministry of Agriculture wrote to the office of the president for mechanisation program and following this letter by agriculture, a letter was sent to SSHFC by the office of the president through the then secretary General Njogu Bah requesting for a loan amounting to D57, 92,000.
“This was treated as loan to GGC and the ministry of agriculture because the ministry of agriculture was the beneficiary of the farming equipment but I don’t know whether the equipment or farm implements were received,” he explained.
Mr Cham claimed that the management of the corporation has engaged the government on the loan and there are correspondences to prove that but the loan of D57, 92,000 remains unpaid.
At that moment, counsel Bensouda applied to tender documents relating to farming implements from John Dirrie amounting to the said sum as exhibits.
Mr Cham went on to testify that there were further directives from the office of the president for the supply of fuel amounting to over D8, 000,000 to Nawec.
There will be no sitting today as the commission will embark on a visit to mining sites in the coastal areas.