Westwood exported 19,747 Timber Containers in 2012 – Says Port’s Deputy MD

By Dawda Faye

Ousman Jobarteh, the deputy managing director of Gambia Port Authority, Wednesday March 7, appeared before the Janneh Commission and shed light on the exportation of timbers by Westwood Company.

Janneh Commission

He told the commission that he knew the said company which was involved in the exportation of timber bound for China.

Mr. Jobarteh further stated that he had a record of the number of containers the company exported to China, revealing that the company exported 106 containers in 2014/15, while in 2012, they exported 19,747 containers and they were timbers in logs.

At this juncture, documents relating to the summary of the activities of the company were tendered and admitted in evidence.

Asked how the company was introduced to GPA, he said the agency they were dealing with gave them a letter as the sole exporter of timbers. Mr. Jobarteh went on to say that according to the letter, the company was authorised to export timbers, adding that Westwood brought a scanner which is stationed at GPA to scan containers and is currently operating and is under their custody.

Elizabeth Mendy – Johnson, the current General Manager of Gamtel, also testified before the Janneh Commission, saying that Gamtel operates at a loss. She reappeared in connection to MGI projects.

In her testimony, she told the commission that MGI sent a female staff for skill development, noting that MGI supported them for roaming and that there was aggressive partnership with MGI for support.

She further stated that Gamtel has been in existence since 2001 and their partnership with MGI was a development project, noting that; “you should know what your partner is giving you is correct.”

According to Mrs. Johnson, she knew from the agreement that an amount should be paid but understood that MGI would not ask for payment.  It was put to her by Counsel Bensouda that MGI deducted $1,093,600 for roaming, and she said that she was not aware.

The witness was also asked by Counsel Bensouda whether she knew the list of all those who attended the MGI event and the cost involved.

In response, she told the commission that she could not remember, noting that PURA rated Gamtel third in rank, adding that Gamcel has not gained any significant development.

However, she adduced that Gamtel owns Gamcel and they appoint managers as well, further stating that they are trying to compete, and competition depends on what you could offer.

She told the commission that she could not tell off head the lowest revenue collected but Gamtel operated at a loss.

Mrs Johnson further stated that when the contract with MGI was stopped, they could not bill their customers, disclosing that they had to go back to their billing system.

“We used to average between D900, 000 and D1, 000, 000 loss a day,” she stated.

She narrated that they needed the most sophisticated billing system to make it more vibrant and up to standard, stating further that they needed to pay MGI $1.7 million after the contract with MGI was terminated.

She testified that no action was taken to negotiate for the payment of this amount, disclosing that they were trying to see if they could budget for another billing system.

Next to face the commission was the former deputy director of Agricultural Engineering Service, Ousainou Jobe, and the current officer in charge of the unit at the Ministry of Agriculture, Mustapha Minteh.

Mr. Jobe told the commissioners that he started work from 1973 to 31 December, 2017.

He was reminded that they were summoned in connection to John Deere tractors.

According to him, they assembled 78 tractors and there was a team from South Africa, adding that the tractors were left at MSA garage and the ministry asked him to be responsible for the tractors.

He informed the commission that the tractors were left at the garage for one year and letters came from the ministry to leave the tractors at the garage.

Mr. Jobe revealed that 334 farming implements were handed over by the office of the former president, noting that after the handing over, instructions came to supply the tractors.

He stated that up to 2015, 55 tractors were distributed, and 13 were left at MSA garage, further disclosing that it was one Siaka who was responsible for MSA and the tractors were handed over to him.

Mr. Jobe further told the commission that general Tamba and Badjie gave the instructions to distribute the 55 tractors and was quick to say that most of the tractors were received by Kanilai Family Farms and they were told that the tractors should be given out on hire basis.

He informed the commission that two tractors were taken to exiled former president’s mother’s farms in Bujinga, noting that they were made to understand that the tractors were bought by SSHFC , and that those who were hiring the tractors did not pay for their services.

At this juncture, summary of the distribution of the tractors were tendered and admitted as evidence.

The director of IT Gamtel/ Gamcel , Seedy Ceesay, also appeared before the commission in connection to MGI project.

He said he is based at Gamcel office but both companies contributed to their budget, adding that from August 2017 to date he has been working with Gamcel.

According to him, as the managing director of co-network, at the time he was involved in the switching of networks, noting that he has never set his eyes on MGI switches despite they were managing the gateway and did not know where their switch was located.

He said he did not have any connection to the switches of MGI but was involved in the billing system and they were to integrate their switches to MGI and the authority came from the then MD.

However, he said he was involved in one MGI project, that’s Gamcel billing system, further indicated that they had a meeting in Switzerland to discuss the bypass fraud, and the loss was not discussed at the meeting.

Mr. Ceesay told the commission that what they discussed at the meeting was that they needed to have a server, stating that MGI was responsible for detecting the fraud, since they were managing the international gateway.

“It is not a fraud on our side but on the international gateway,” he told the commission.

At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda asked him why Gamtel had difficulties in the operation of the system after taking over from MGI. In response, he said he did not know why the system was not working and that he did not know what MGI did on the system.

Mr. Ceesay informed the commission that they called experts but the system was not working, disclosing that he did not know anything about the sum of over $1million deducted by MGI.

Sarjo Khan, the Director of Customer Care Services at Gamcel, also gave evidence on the same matter.

Hearing continues today.


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