By Baba Sillah
Former Finance minister, Mambury Njie, has told the Janneh Commission that President Yahya Jammeh took a grant from the Qatari government as his personal funds.
Njie, who is now the head of the national petroleum company told the commission yesterday that the funds were allocated for the state aircraft and not meant for personal use. He said they were suppose to go through the Central Bank for procurement of a specific purpose and that was why he was involved as a signatory being the minister of Finance and Economic Affairs then.
But, he lamented, President Jammeh took it otherwise and he claimed he even verbally advised the president that he [Jammeh] should not be a signatory to the account but he insisted that the funds were given because of his personal request.
Mr Njie who was summoned by the commission with regard to the accounts he was signatory to during his tenure as the finance minister, said he could not recalled all the accounts he was signatory to on the top of his head, but recalled being a signatory to the state aircraft and mobilisation accounts.
Mr Njie said it is the duty of the directorate of national treasury to make sure that proper procedures are followed in the opening of accounts and that the bilateral agreement between Qatar and The Gambia indicated that the funds must be paid in the Central Bank account. He said that was the reason he took it upon himself as minister to be a signatory rather than the permanent secretary. He said it is also the minister’s responsibility to ensure that there is proper mobilisation of resources.
Mr Njie however said he did not know how funds were disbursed from that account because he did not make follow-up after the account was opened and that he did not remove his name as signatory or close the account. When asked by Commission Counsel Amie Bensouda about the acquisition of a Boeing 757, coach buses and other luxuries acquired by the former president, he said he had no idea but was informed that the items were purchased was from his personal funds.
He also told the commission that he was not aware that President Jammeh acquired luxury vehicles from Global Trading Company.
He further explained to the Commission that it was the responsibility of the Director of Treasury to know whether the funds were in the account and inform his ministry accordingly provided that such funds were sent into the account. He said he did not know that the sum of €4,000,000 and €1.5 million were withdrawn from the State Aircraft Account.
On the Mobilisation Account, he said it was purposely meant for national events and he was a signatory to that account and there was a committee chaired by the former vice president responsible for the mobilisation of funds because what was usually budgeted and allocated vary, necessitating them to look for funding from the private sector. He said such funds are not deposited at the central bank but at commercial banks.
He said he was asked to assist the National Organising Committee chaired by the former Vice President on the mobilisation of funds for the inauguration of the former president.
When asked whether ministers should by law be involved in the opening of accounts, he said as a government they needed to be innovative and it was due to those circumstances that ministers had to be involved but that it was abnormal. He told the commission that the reason why he became signatory to the account was to make sure that everything was justifiable and reasonable and also to make sure that the proper procedures were followed especially after the audit exercise.
Responding to a question, Mr Njie said the Central Bank has the authority to turn down requests from Office of the President and Ministry of Finance with regard to opening of accounts. He finally told the commission that communications from Qatar were directed to the Office of the President and not the ministry. Mr Njie is expected to reappear before the commission next week.
Meanwhile, the former governors of North Bank and Lower River regions, Lamin ‘Queen’ Jammeh and Salifu Puye also appeared to give account of the D600, 000 given them for the purpose of buying bulls and selling meat to people in communities in their regions.