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Ex-officials explain fate of ‘Jammeh’s tractors’

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By Baba Sillah

Former permanent secretaries at the ministries of trade and agriculture were yesterday summoned by the Janneh Commission to shed light on the acquisition of Mahindra tractors and the loan agreement between the Government of The Gambia and Mahindra Company in India.

The first to testify was Naffie Barry, the permanent secretary at Ministry of Trade, Employment and Regional Integration who told the commission that in November 2005, a delegation comprising Balla Gaye, former Finance Minister and the former Chief Executive Officer of then GIFZA, went to India for a conclave and during the visit, a loan agreement was signed for the purchase of tractors.

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According to Mrs Barry, she and Kebba S Touray signed the loan agreement on behalf of the then Minister Balla Gaye after they were given authority to do so.

She explained that part of the agreement was the supply of 500 tractors with guaranty as well as an assembly plant and the total loan was $6.7 million which she said was signed by the then permanent secretary Ministry of Agriculture, Suruwa B Jaiteh.

Upon return from India, Mrs Barry said she forwarded the signed agreement to the permanent secretaries of Foreign Affairs and Finance as well as the secretary general office of the president.

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Madam Barry further explained that it was based on the instruction of the secretary general that the delegation was formed to visit India after the Gambian consular had shortlisted two companies for the procurement of tractors and they decided to choose Mahindra.

Mrs Barry further recalled that upon their return from India, a report was made but she could not find the said report. But when shown a report by the counsel, Mrs Barry said it looked familiar but could not confirm whether it was the same one before the commission. The Commission counsel asked her to find out and make it available to the commission.

Ps Barry recalled that after recommending the Mahindra tractors, an agreement was signed on 12 April 2006 for the tractors, 500 units with guaranty.

Next to give evidence on the Mahindra tractors was Suruwa B Jaiteh, the former PS Agric who retired in 1998 but was on contract from 2005-2006 before he becomes a consultant.
Mr Jaiteh said during his capacity as permanent secretary 2, he was responsible for programs and budget at the ministry.

He told the Janneh Commission that in 2006 they were summoned by the office of the president to sign Mahindra tractors on behalf of the government by the then secretary general Mambury Njie.

Asked by counsel Bensouda who was assisted by Olimatou Danso whether there was any proposal for the acquisition of tractors by the ministry, he responded in the affirmative noting that in India they conducted an inspection of companies regarding tractors and Mahindra was chosen.

Mr Jaiteh said he signed for the acquisition of 500 tractors, adding that by the time the tractors arrived he was out of the system but an arrangement was made with the Ministry of Finance for a consortium of Gambian entrepreneurs who can contract the tractors for loan.

However, he said he did not know whether a consortium was formed because he was sent to jail but was informed that the former president has taken over the tractors and kept them at KGI.
Next to appear before the commission was Abdoulie Tambadou, the managing director of GPA who dwelled on issues relating to the ferries.

Mr Tambadou said the total cost contributed by GPA and SSHFC for the ferries was D335, 110,690 but he was not aware whether the office of the president has correspondences with regard to the procurement of the ferries.

According to the GPA boss, the expected cost for the construction of slipways for the ferries was $500,000 noting that the total cost for Kunta Kinteh was 7,726,200 euros and added that the office of the president was not involved in the procurement of the said ferry.

Kebba Manneh, senior manager, technical service GPA also gave evidence on the Joint Venture Agreement for the purchase of Aljamdou and Kansala ferries.
Momodou Lamin Gibba also testified on Gallie ferries in his capacity as the then managing director of SSHFC.

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