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Thursday, November 30, 2023

There was fraud in Gamtel gateway contract – PS Camara

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By Baba Sillah

Lamin Camara, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, yesterday told the Janneh Commission that there was fraud in the management of the Gamtel gateway and the telecommunications giant at the time was losing a lot of revenue from the proceeds of the gateway.

Mr Camara who was summoned in his capacity as the then PS, Ministry of Information, recalled that the gateway used to be managed by Gamtel until 2006 when Global Voice Group was contracted but was later terminated, followed by Spectrum and then System 1, TELL and finally MGI which was managing the gateway until 2007.

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He further stated that when the visa license for the management of gateway was revoked, Gamtel used to exclusively manage the gateway.
He adduced that the role of the ministry at the time was to support Gamtel for the agreement of visa license for the management of the gateway which he said was replaced.

Mr. Camara further testified that the payment by Spectrum regarding the sale of Gamtel/Gamcel shares to Spectrum was not determined at the level of the ministry.
At this point, an executive summon business evaluation prepared by PKF firm for Gamtel/Gamcel was tendered and admitted as an exhibit.

On the evaluation of the sale of Gamtel/Gamcel shares to Spectrum, Camara said the highest evaluation at the time was $161.2 million, noting that the ministry was also involved in the reverse decision by the government in the sale of the national telecom and its subsidiary company, Gamcel.

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He added that Mr Ali Charari was the one behind the TELL and Spectrum while system 1 is a Spanish-based company, noting that the said companies were not licensed at the time of managing the gateway.
“MGI had an issue with TELL and after the termination of the TELL contract, MGI was contracted to manage the gateway,” Mr. Camara told the commission.

He testified that $2 million was deducted from the gateway proceeds by Spectrum every month.
According to him, Gamtel at the time was not under the ministry of information but office of the president.
He further told the commission that all the staff of Gamtel were fighting for the termination of TELL company, noting that he was not aware of the projects of MGI at the time until he became part of the task force.
At this juncture, situational report on Gamtel prepared by the witness from 2007 to 2008 was tendered and admitted as evidence.

He further stated that the sum of $26 million was for projects done by MGI, adding that Gamcel billing system did not come to the board. He disclosed that MGI was under the office of the former president, disclosing that there was a letter from the said office that the gateway was under the office of the former president and anything relating to the gateway should be directed to the office of the former president.
When asked whether he could say that the government benefited from the gateway, he answered in the positive.

He was further asked by Commissioner Saine whether there was anybody in the government who could have made informed choices. In response, he told the commission that he believed that if the management was not performing, then it needed a replacement.
Hearing resumes on Monday.

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