By Sheriff Bojang
On Wednesday 25th August, The Standard published a headline article in which the APRC leader Fabakary Tombong Jatta accused two unnamed ministers of the Jammeh government of withdrawing D10 million from APRC accounts without authorisation during the impasse that followed the December 2016 election.
According to the story authored by The Standard’s chief reporter Omar Bah, Mr Jatta told a meeting in Central River Region that upon receipt of the information, he contacted the ministers and they told him President Jammeh approved the withdrawals, a statement Jatta claimed the president denied.
Since then, there has been a lot of finger pointing regarding the reported APRC missing millions and the identities of the two ministers.
The Standard made attempts to speak to the former president who lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea and the former party general secretary and works minister Bala Garba Jahumpa. Both were unavailable for immediate comment on the matter.
However, former party treasurer, chairperson of the fundraising committee and education minister Ms Fatou Lamin Faye told The Standard Fabakary Tombong Jatta’s statements were “misleading and inaccurate to say the least”.
Minister Faye who together with finance minister Abdou Kolley, trade minister Abdou Jobe and the secretary general at the Office of the President were signatories to the party’s accounts, said no ministers or any other persons ever withdrew D10 million from the party’s accounts without authorisation.
Abdou Kolley told The Standard he was “aware of only one financial transaction during the impasse and that was not up to D10 million”.
According to APRC financial records accessed by The Standard, that transaction was a payment of D6 million to a Lebanese businessman with longstanding business interests in The Gambia now based in the UAE who was contracted by President Jammeh to provide campaign materials for the 2016 presidential election.
According to sources familiar with the story, three weeks after the election, the businessman contacted the secretary general at the Office of the President about his payment. The SG then contacted the party treasurer who notified the party bureau.
On 21st December 2016, first administrative secretary Bakary ‘Bakso’ Jaiteh, wrote a memo to President Jammeh through the general secretary “respectfully submit[ting] a gentle regquest [sic] for payment of six million dalasis to [name withheld] as cost of campaign materials for the 2016 presidential election.”
President Jammeh approved the request the same day and the following day, Mr Jaiteh forwarded a minute sheet to Minister Fatou Lamin Faye indicating approval by the president.
A week later on 28th December 2016, Ministers Faye and Kolley wrote to the managing director of Guaranty Trust Bank instructing that the D6 million be transferred to the account of the Lebanese businessman’s company in The Gambia. The bank debited the APRC Fundraising Committee Account, transferred the funds and issued a debit advice to the party to the effect.
On 9th January, Minister Faye wrote to the party leader informing him about the payment to the businessman and submitted a copy of the debit advice from the bank along with a letter of acknowledgment of receipt of the funds from the businessman. Minister Faye copied Ministers Kolley and Jobe in the letter.
As far as the ministers were concerned, this was the only banking financial transaction they were aware of during the impasse. “I know Fatou Lamin Faye is very meticulous with her record-keeping and does things above the board,” Minister Kolley stated.
Earlier on 12th November 2016 APRC Bakso Jaiteh wrote a memo to President Jammeh noting that as was done in the previous presidential elections, the party’s structures in all the 53 constituencies should be “offered financial assistance [amounting to D30,000 each] to support and supplement their campaign effort and provide allowances for party polling agents”. The following day, President Jammeh approved the payment of the requested D1,590,000 from the account. The amount was withdrawn and given to the liaison officers for distribution to the local offices.
According to records seen by The Standard, after President Jammeh’s ouster and going into exile, various payments were effected from the account.
On 6th February 2017, Minister Faye and Kolley wrote to the GT Bank instructing that D855,450 be debited from the APRC account and credited to the Zenith Bank account of a local construction group. A former official at the APRC bureau told The Standard: “In fact regarding the payment to [name withheld], it was the cost of the refurbishment of the bureau [burnt by arsonists on 14th August 2016] and was negotiated by Hon Bala Jahumpa [APRC general secretary] who sought approval. It was the second payment made.”
On 17th February, Bakso Jaiteh wrote and presented a budget of D297,000 for a 30-person, 8-day countrywide consultation and briefing tour with party members. Mr Jatta approved the payment but instructed the secretariat to shift the date for the tour as they needed time to make the request and be granted a permit for the meetings. A cheque in this amount was issued to Seedy Njie on 23rd February 2017.
On 23rd February 2017, Jaiteh again wrote a memo to then interim party leader requesting for a payment of D260,000 to a lawyer, Ibrahim Jaiteh for legal representation for 26 APRC supporters arrested in Foni Kanfenda.
In approving the payment, FT Jatta wrote: “Protection of our innocent supporters is mandatory on the part of the party if we are out to serve the people.”
On 1st March 2017, a cheque was issued to this effect and cashed by Seedy Njie.
On 6th March 2017, Bakso Jaiteh submitted an “agreement budget” of D660,000 to Mr Jatta to cover the deposit of the 40 candidates the party intended to put up in the coming National Assembly election, printing of posters and hiring of gèlé-gèlés. This was approved on the same day.
The following day on 7th March, a cheque of D400,000 was issued in the name of Seedy Njie. Another cheque of D60,000 was issued to Eco Group as payment for the printing of logos and posters.
On 25th April 2021, Seedy Njie who signed for the first administrative secretary wrote to Mr Jatta requesting for a withdrawal of D50,000 from the account to refund Honourable Netty Baldeh and provide cash-in-hand for the bureau assistant Musu. This decision Mr Njie reminded the interim leader, was taken at an executive meeting on 21st April.
On 9th May 2017, Seedy Njie writing on behalf of Mr Jaiteh wrote to the chairman of the Taskforce Committee requesting withdrawal of D140,000 to be used for payment of the deposit of the party’s candidate in a council by-election and campaign costs, with D100,000 to be paid to the party’s lawyer as retainer fee.
A former member of the APRC Fundraising Committee told The Standard that in July 2016, the APRC decided to consolidate its accounts and invested D10 million in a fixed deposit account at the GT Bank with a tenor of 124 days. This was expected to yield D448,438.36 as interest upon maturity on 2nd November 2016.
All the payments listed above were made from that account.
Asked about the account balance by the time she left office as APRC treasurer, Ms Faye said: “I could not verify that because it was frozen.”
But according to the receipted withdrawals seen by The Standard and the D448,438.36 interest payment accrued from the matured fixed deposit investment, at least D855,988.36 should have remained in the account.
Asked whether Fabakary Tombong Jatta was not aware of the details of the financial transactions, Ms Faye asserted: “[After he contacted me] I sent him everything in terms of documentation you have seen. I also called him several times but he has not been picking up my calls and has not returned any call