GAMBIAN GOVT PROBES GAMTEL USD10 MILLION FIBRE CONTRACT WITH SIEMENS

Telecoms

The Commission of Inquiry probing into the USD10 million fibre optic project signed between Gamtel, Siemens of Germany and Befag Ag yesterday resume sitting with Onesimo J Mukumba, chief executive officer of Standard Chartered Bank, Gambia, testifying.

In his testimony, Mr Mukumba said he had an audience with President Jammeh about the fibre optic project in 2002. In response to State Counsel Abdoulie Sissoho's queston as to whether or not he had an audience with Prsedient Jammeh regarding the fibre optic project, CEO Mukumba said: "All the witnesses that have testified here before have not been asked whether they have had an audience or discussion with the President."

He was told by Chairman Janneh that he should tell the Commission whether he had a discussion with the President. "This Commission is on a fact finding mission, nobody is on trial here. It is just a matter of confirming that you (Mukumba) had a discussion with the President as you have confirmed having audience with other honorary people," Janneh said.

CEO Mukumba said, "In view of my respect his (the President's) Office and the fact that this is his Commission, I cannot confirm or deny any audience with his excellency, Alhaji Yahya AJJ Jammeh, the President of The Gambia."

He was asked by state counsel Abdoulie Sissoho to say yes or no to the question that he had an audience with the President. "You have taken an oath that you will tell the truth; it is a crime to lie," Sissoho added.

Mukumba was also told by Lawyer Marenah that the Commission is of the belief that the President set up the Commission to investigate and find out everything that transpired.

At this juncture, CEO Mukumba said: "I now confirm that I had an audience with the President." Continuing his testimony, Mr Mukumba said, "I am aware of the project in the contest, it being that our customers intention to implement it as was deliberated during the proceedings of this Commission. With your permission, Mr Chairman, I need not elaborate what has been mentioned by all the parties before this Commission."

Asked by Counsel Sissoho if it is true that he had several meetings with government officials in relation to the project, Mr Mukumba said he had discussions with Musa Bala Gaye, the secretary of state for Finance and Economic Affairs, Famara Jatta, then SoS finance, the attorney general and SoS for Justice Sheikh Tijan Hydara, secretary general Office of the President, Alieu Ngum and Dodou Bammy Jagne, the then permanent secretary Finance.

Asked if he is familiar with the concept of countermanding in banking, Mr Mukumba said, "I am not in the position to clarify or explain countermanding. I need to revisit. It is not proper for me to say anything that will prejudice the inquiry, to say something that I am not sure of. I know countermanding but I cannot recall at this moment of the concept."

Asked again what was his training and experience before he became CEO Standard Chartered Bank, Gambia, Mr Mukumba said, "I have more than twenty years of banking service prior to that I got a masters degree in Business Administration. I have managed most of the banks business which include consumer banking, client relations and others."

CEO Mukumba further said he is aware of Gamtel's credit rating internally in the bank. "We have credit rates which are from time to time prescribed to borrowers and depositors depending on the quantum of their business, exposures, if any, and their ability to meet their obligations. I am also aware of The Gambia credit rating which is changed from time to time by international organisations."

Mr Mukumba said he is not aware of the amount of money paid by Gamtel, as of November 2004, regarding the USD3 million bank guarantee. "This is under the jurisdiction of the head of clients relationship, Bernard Mendy. I would find out from him," he added. Two letters written by Mr Mukumba were tendered to the commission and marked as exhibits.

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