By Alagie Manneh
Malleh Sallah of the Djeliba Leisure Group, has rejected as “unfounded” reports that his group has been contracted to manage Bakau’s Ocean Bay Hotel.
Speaking to The Standard last evening, Mr Sallah who also doubles as IEC number two, said the report was “news” to him and that it was without “an iota of truth”.
An online Gambian news site reported Wednesday that State House has awarded contract to run the hotel to the Leisure Group, “without tender,” raising eyebrows and public condemnation.
But Mr Sallah explained: “State House has never offered us this hotel. In fact, this hotel belongs to the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, SSHFC.”
He said sometime ago, about ten companies were invited to submit bids for lease of Ocean Bay and adjoining Sun Beach hotels and his group was informed after a few months that it was the highest bidder and given the option to lease one of the hotels.
“The hotels were under the purview of the Janneh Commission. So they [SSHFC] wanted to wait until the hotels were free and under their care but they later decide to run the hotels by themselves.
So you can imagine our surprise and consternation to wake up and read somewhere that our company has been awarded by the Barrow government to manage the hotel.
“It is totally unfounded.
To be honest, this is not the time to [go into a leas[ing agreement] for us, if you know what has happened with Thomas Cook and if you understand the tourism business well enough.
It will be suicidal to take a huge undertaking like that now.
There is not an iota of truth to this story,” he stated.
On the Janneh Commission and its renting of his Djeliba Hotel premises for the commission’s hearings, he said: “We were approached by the commission members, not the government.
They went round looking at the various hotels and ended up deciding that our premises were the most suitable.”
Allaying concerns of a conflict of interest given his role and position as the vice-chairman of the IEC and businessman, Mr Sallah said in fact he has not been receiving a salary for about seven years and that he regarded his work with the commission as a way of giving back to the country and as a patriotic duty.
“Between me and God, I know everything that I have done at the commission has been in the best interest of the Gambian people.
I also know that when the commission went through the hardest times, I stood up 100 percent for the voice of the Gambians.
I will never regret the opportunity this country has given me.
As a far as conflict of interests are concerned, I have always separated my functions as a commission member and as a businessman.
This is why I continue to serve voluntarily at the IEC.
I don’t see any conflict of interest.”
Sallah said he remained baffled as to what may have triggered “these grim allegations”, which have the potential to tarnish “the good image” of his company.
He said: “I will not speculate on how the website got its information.
All I can say is that journalists have a responsibility to report factual news.
This is a fake news story.”
He went on to use the opportunity to talk about some of his company’s achievements and ambitions for the country.
“We have turned the industry and turned our hotel from one to a chain of hotels. We hire 500 Gambians and our target is to hire at least 1,000 Gambians within the next five years,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the SSHFC has also confirmed the online reports as “100 percent wrong”.
Its corporate affairs director, Fabuka Njaay, said the hotel remains under the management of the SSHFC.