22 February 2018

Gambia: 'Japanese Grants Were Not Utilised for Their Intended Purpose' Former DG, Dept. of Agric.

Mr. Bakary L.O. Sonko, former Director General at the Department of Agriculture, yesterday told the 'Janneh' Commission that the Japanese grants that were given to the former Government of the Gambia to support the under privileged farmers, were not utilised for their intended purpose.

He further blamed KGI for not complying with the terms and conditions of the agreement because most of the grants were concentrated within the Greater Banjul Area.

Mr. Sonko who was summoned in connection with the said grants, said he became involved in the grants when all the departments under the Agricultural Unit were merged and restructured; that prior to this, he served the Ministry of Agriculture for almost 35 years, the best time of which he spent with the Cooperative Department.

According to Sonko, the purpose of the grant was to help the under privileged farmers; that this was how he got involved but that he was not the focal person. He added that the Ministry at the time, managed these grants internally.

He also told the Commission that they confirmed how the proceeds were deposited at CBG and monitored the disbursement of consignments and prepared quarterly reports for the Japanese Government; that after they held a meeting, the former government was involved and a co-committee was formed to come up with a payment plan for the grants, and approved by the office of the former president.

Mr. Sonko however disclosed that he was concerned about the commodities given to KGI whom he said were selling at a high price; that KGI was supposed to deposit the proceeds at CBG but they realised that the group was in shortfall and they did not abide by the agreement. He said he was not dealing directly with the former president despite the fact that he was their Minister but was of the belief that the PS was dealing with him.

He said there were outstanding deliveries of fertilizer at the office of the former president; that when he retired voluntarily from the Central Government and joined the Agric. Project, he was coordinating the grants through Agri. Business.

Mr. Sonko agreed with Commissioner Bai Mass Saine that the grants that were meant to help the under privileged farmers were not utilised for the intended purpose it was meant for; that KGI did not have a competitor for the contract to sell the commodities because it belongs to the former president. Commissioner Saine further asked him why they continued to supply KGI when there were shortfalls and in response, he said it was a long term arrangement and could not be stopped immediately; that what they requested from the office of the former president as the shortfall of D92, 000.000 was more than the said amount.

Mr. Kebba Drammeh, Principal Records Officer at the office of the president, submitted files that were related to Taiwanese loans which were admitted as exhibits.

Earlier, Mr. Augustus Prom, who was appointed by the government to serve as Receiver on properties belonging to the former president, reappeared before the Commission alongside Louise Prom Junior.

Prior to his testimony, he was reminded by Counsel Anna Njie that he was served with a summons in connection with the receivership of 17 Companies of the former president and he responded in the affirmative. According to him, they had an executive summary where the names of these Companies were listed.

At this juncture, the executive summary in receivership along with other documents were tendered and admitted as exhibits. He said the objective was meeting those on the ground and explaining to them issues relating to the receivership of their Companies, noting that they also dealt with their staffing and banking. He told the Commission that those they found on the ground are cooperating with them.

He testified that Green Industry has an account at the Trust Bank which was registered but that the Royal Company has no receivership, further stating that they took over the Observer Company and it has serious issues; that it was closed by the GRA where they owe some money.

On KGI, he said it deals mostly in commodities and also engages in bakery, noting that there was a resolution for shareholders.

Next to testify was Attikan Dibba, Principal Accountant at the CBG, who reappeared in connection to Japanese loans and grants. He testified that they had 25 accounts relating to the said grants and loans from Japan.

According to him, proceeds were lodged into the Central Bank after the sales of the commodities and the proceeds were deposited as far back as 1990; that the purpose was to accumulate the proceeds from the said grants.

He testified that they had the account numbers and balances and out of the 25 accounts, they selected 10; that they were in high balance which was over D10, 000,000. He then gave details and balances in each of the account, date of opening and the denominations of each account in dalasi and dollars.

Mr. Dibba revealed that out of the ten accounts, they only had the transactions of five. Dwelling on some of the accounts, he said the Japanese Grant and Trade Gateway, was opened on the 6th September 2000, and the balance was zero; that the Japanese Grant for the TR Programme was opened on the 25th September 2000, with a balance of D631, 625.49.

On the Japanese Grant 2KR 2000, he said it was opened on the 30th December 2002, with a balance of D160, 707.35 while the Grant Development Phase 2, was opened on the 11thSeptember 2003, with zero balance. The KR Japanese Grant he said, was opened on the 5thMay 2005, and there was a balance of D2, 309,415. He said the Japanese Food Aid 2006 account was opened on the 22nd June 2007, with a balance of D3, 348,514.78.

The Sale of Fertilizer Account he said, was opened on the 19th January 2009, with a balance of D19, 051,055 while the Wheat Flour Account was opened on the 28th of February 2012, with a balance of D3, 720,000; that the JAMKR Account was opened on the 1st of September, 2014, with a balance of D4, 105,099.59; the JAFK Account was opened on the 1st September, 2014, with a balance of D105, 690.19.

Buttressing further on these Accounts, the Principal Banker revealed that there was another Account called 2KR and that the first transaction was done on the 16th May 2012, with a balance of D5, 580,000 while 2KR 1999 Account's first transaction was done on the 2nd December 2002, with a balance of D14, 725.

On the 2KR 2000 C, he said the first transaction was done on the 2nd December 2002, with a balance of D643, 772.12 while with the 2K 2007 Account, the first transaction was done on the 9th January 2009, and the balance was D724, 890; that the Japanese Aid on the Sale of Wheat Flour first transaction was done on the 2nd October 1999, and the balance was D738,732.58.

According to him, on the Aid KR 2010 Account, the first transaction was done on the 25th of July 2012, and the balance was D25, 992,711.11; that the RSSP Account's first transaction was done on the 1st February 2000, and there was no balance on this Account; that the RSSP Account's first transaction was done on the 2nd October 1999, with a nil balance as well.

On the SD Education Project Account, he said there was no transaction done on this account, with zero balance; but that on the WRG account, the first transaction was done on the 2nd October 1999, with a balance of D1, 000,000 while the KR 2004 Rice Food Aid account's first transaction was done on the 8th May 2006, with a balance of D957,609.35; that on the KR 2009 account, the first transaction was done on the 23rd August 2011, and there was a balance of D71, 520,625.63; that on the Sale of Japanese Rice account, the first transaction was done on the 28th July 2004, with a balance of D44,752,200 while on the Sale of Fertilizer account, there was a balance of D24, 235,582 but they did not have the first transaction on this account. He however promised the Commission that they would update the remaining accounts. Documents relating to these Accounts were tendered and admitted as exhibits.

Sittings continue today.

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