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Monday, October 26, 2020

Trust Bank MD, Accountant General testify at commission

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By Mustapha Darboe

The Accountant General, Momodou Lamin Bah, has told the Commission of Inquiry into the assets and financial dealings of former president Yahya Jammeh and his associates that he is unaware of any tax recovery account established by the government.

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Bah’s testimony came after two leading banks have been summoned to reveal the nature of their relationship with Jammeh following allegations that government’s tax recovery accounts were opened with the private banks without due procedures and were operated by individuals.
Bah said the government can only open an account with private banks after a recommendation from the accountant general and an approval from the finance minister, but he has not found any such information in their archives.

However, the Accountant General further stated that under the previous government, the Finance and Accountability Act (changed in 2014) gave power to a permanent secretary to approve opening of such an account with private banks.
Bah said at the level of the accountant general, they only recommended opening of accounts with private banks in the area of revenue collection in rural areas by revenue authorities or salary payments in far off places that would otherwise have involved a police escort.

The amount saved in the two “tax recovery” accounts in various banks nears 100 million dalasi (over 2 million dollars) with another account relating to mining revenues.
Ebrima Sallah, the managing director of Trust Bank admitted that the nature with which the tax accounts were opened and being used by individuals should have raised “suspicions”.
“For tax recovery account payments to go to individuals; does not trigger anything?” inquired Commissioner Bai Mass Saine, who further asked if the bank has suspicious activity reporting standard.

Sallah said they have in place mechanisms to report any suspicious activity with their regulators, the Central Bank, but they have no control over how such information is used thereafter.
The tax recovery account opened at the Trust Bank on 17 Sep, 2013 had D33,822,753 million, of which D29,225,793 was withdrawn leaving the balance of D4,596,960 which was frozen.
Among the people who were named in connection with withdrawals from the Trust Bank account were former secretaries-general Momodou Sabally and Sulayman Samba.

Last week, the heads of at least four institutions appeared before the Commission to explain their financial dealings with the former president.
The heads of Guaranty Trust Bank, First International Bank and Gambia Revenue Authority and the head of corporate department of Trust Bank appeared before the commission on its first day of hearings.

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