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Saturday, October 16, 2021

EX-FINANCE MINISTER COUNTERS BARROW ON FABB D35M SAGA

By Tabora Bojang

A former minister of finance, Amadou Sanneh has denied any knowledge of the D35 million that was paid into the account of the First Lady’s foundation, FaBB, by a Chinese company TEbA, monies President Barrow claimed was used to charter a flight for him and his delegation to China.

The transfer of the money, some US700,000 to the FaBB account and the subsequent awarding of a contract to the donating company TBEA by Nawec, have raised concern among many quarters who called it a bribe.

A FaBB foundation official, Fatou Ceesay initially said they did not know how the money was transferred into their account and the matter was being investigated.

However, in a recent interview with his political party NPP media, President Barrow claimed the money was transferred into the FaBB account and used to pay for a plane to take him and delegation to China. He said the government needed to embark on that trip and that government had no funds to finance it, adding that when the offer came from the Chinese company TBEA, he okayed a suggestion for the money to be wired into the FaBB account since it cannot be paid into the consolidated fund. The president alleged that then finance minister Amadou Sanneh and vice president Ousainu Darboe were on the flight and knew about the money and the transaction.

Responding to these claims, Amadou Sanneh said to suggest that he and Ousainu Draboe knew about this money and the transaction is a gross misinformation and a deliberate attempt at misleading people at a time of accountability, when he, Barrow, is facing serious questions about corruption in his government.

“I was responsible for the finances of this country from 2017 to March 2019 and we [the Ministry of Finance] were never involved in this transaction. We had never been given any information nor any documentation as to what the transaction was or where it emanates,” Sanneh said.

He added: “As a finance minister at the time, I was completely in the dark about this and until the president’s recent revelations, everyone assumed this was a donation to FaBB. But now that the president has come out to state that this is a donation to The Gambia, to finance an official trip, then it is fair to say that the whole transaction has gone against the financial regulations of this country because it should not have gone into FaBB’s account when the Central Bank has reserve accounts outside. So why can’t it be paid to the CBG’s reserve accounts? Is the FaBB account better than the Central Bank?”

The former finance minister added that it is “fallacious for the president to indicate there was no money for travels” in 2017 when there was an allocation in the approved budget estimates. “He was just misleading the public because if it was an urgent trip, the government would have funded it.

We do not know how much was charged by the company, but in any case, $700,000 for one trip is a monstrous amount. I do not think for a second that it would be close to that amount. It is an extremely expensive flight, but when you reveal that was the bill, you naturally now have to produce documentation,” Sanneh, a seasoned accountant said.

 He said the head of state’s “dubious” remarks are also intended to cleanse himself from the streams of corruption engulfing his government. 

 “This was why he [Barrow] decided to include my name Amadou Sanneh and that of Ousainu Darboe and other ministers so that it can appear that we are all part of the mess. But he has failed because this is a dubious transaction that runs contrary to the public finance regulations of this country and the constitutional provisions. This is why I was very shocked upon hearing this because as minister, he never gave us evidence that this money has been given to the Gambia. If he paid for the plane, nobody has seen the receipt. And we at the Ministry of Finance at the time never saw any communication to say we have a donation from somebody financing the president’s trip and all funds of the government should go to the accountant general’s consolidated revenue fund. So by that admission it is a gross breach of the financial regulations,” Mr Sanneh said.

Sanneh however confirmed that he travelled with the president to China on two occasions but it was never mentioned that the trips were funded by TBEA.

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