By Tabora Bojang
The Public Petitions Committee of the National Assembly yesterday continued its sittings over the GTBoard corruption allegations with the current director general, Abubacarr Camara testifying.
Mr Camara informed the committee that even though a new contract was signed between the GT Board and Construct Company for the construction of a new office complex in 2018, it was not until he took over from Abdoulie Hydara that work actually started.
Before becoming DG in October 2020, Camara served as director of licensing, quality control and enforcement.
His immediate predecessor, Abdoulie Hydara had told the committee that it was the Minister of Tourism and Culture, Hamat Bah who asked them to renegotiate a contract signed in 2014 between the Board and Construct Limited who were allocated land at the Fajara exchange for them to build an office complex for both the Ministry and GTBoard.
According to Mr Hydara, this led to discussions that resulted in the signing of a new contract in 2018 which stipulates that the GT Board will cease occupying the Tropics as agreed and Construct Limited would now build a new complex for them at a new site and also contribute D900,000 to their [GT Board’s] annual office rental during the construction period, while Construct Limited takes full control of Tropics and all its shops for a 50 years lease period.
Testifying on these matters, DG Camara said despite the agreement for the contractor to commence construction of a new office since GT Board will not take over its offices at the Tropics, work for the new complex was not implemented until he took over.
“When I took over, there was no work being done even though there was a contract for the contractor to build a new office for GT Board. I took up the matter with my senior management and we consulted the Board and they made a resolution for us to engage the contractor and tell him that whatever the case may be, he has to build an office within 24 months. Fara Shamz [the contractor] insisted in consideration of the Covid-19 pandemic but we pressured him and told him there is no option since we [GTB] cannot continue to be paying such a huge amount for rent every year”, Camara said.
He told the committee that the yearly rent is $70,000. According to the new DG, work for the new complex situated around the Palma Rima is almost completed. Asked what prompted the change from the previous contract to the new one, Camara said: “I don’t know anything about that previous contract. I was not housed within the GTB head office prior to becoming the DG. I was obliged to ask former DG [ Abdoulie Hydara] the situation about everything and he directed me to a document in the files and that was the first time I knew there were contracts regarding GTB office complex.”
He also told the committee that he was not aware about any assessment in terms of cost benefit to the state regarding the renegotiation of a new contract.