By Dawda Faye
The former managing director (MD) of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, Edward Graham, today disclosed before the Janneh Commission that Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC) made a profit of D90, 000,000 under his chairmanship.
He reappeared along with Tumble K. Danso, also a former managing director of the corporation, in connection to SSHFC investment on Gam Petroleum. The two former MDs sat side-by-side giving evidence as required.
According to Mr. Danso, he served as the managing director of the corporation from January 2006, to September 2009, and January 2011, to March 2011. Mr. Graham confirmed to the commission that he was acting as MD when Danso left until 2010, but subsequently his service was terminated in 2012.
Mrs. Bensouda told him that they were interested in the price paid in the investment on Gam Petroleum to the tune of €35,000,000. In response, he said they got a directive from the Ministry of Finance, directing some institutions to take up shares on Gam Petroleum.
At this juncture, Mr. Danso intervene and revealed that the former government wanted the strategic investment of 49% to be retained; adding that initially SSHFC was given 20% and that they did a due diligence to consult the financial department for advice, as he was not a financial expert.
Mr. Graham came in and testified that during this time, he was the deputy managing director (DMD), further noting that they received a directive from the office of the former president, indicating that the 49% should be shared among three parastatals because of the bilateral relations the company had with the former government.
According to him, they were told to give out the profit of the storage facility and that a statement of affairs was given to them to the tune of €33,000,000 and later €2,000,000, totalling €35,000,000.
He added that Gam Petroleum prepared the statement of affairs, and that no inventory of the asset was done at the time, noting that they were told that the auditors made an error, further confirming that the statement of affairs was also prepared by Gam Petroleum.
On whether they were not concerned about the value of Gam Petroleum, he responded that they had concern but the government was using threats to get the shares, and they requested for the financial breakdown of the investment.
At this juncture, Mrs. Bensouda told him that DT Associates said they relied on the financial statement to do the evaluation on Gam Petroleum, and this was why they prepared an evaluation which was shown to the witness. Mr. Graham, after perusing the evaluation report, confirmed it.
However, he disclosed that they did not receive dividend after they made the investment. It was put to him that the evaluation report on the 28th February, 2014, was the first evaluation done which was shown to him. He confirmed it and said that there was €32.6 million on the evaluation report.
According to him, the 2015 report showed that there were serious issues, noting that they were not able to get a representative for the management on the investment; adding that they were a bit skeptical on the management and when they took over, they decided to send someone to be stationed at Mandinary.
On why they failed to have a representative in the management from 2008 until 2015, Mr. Danso said it was very tough to have meetings because most of the time, their share partners were not forthcoming, and until he left in 2009, they did not start operation.
Mr. Graham added his voice and said that expatriates were managing Gam Petroleum because there was no expertise available in The Gambia, further stating that they wanted to make sure that there was a required standard and this was why they employed the expatriates.
At this juncture, Counsel Bensouda put it to him that there was no document presented to support the sum of €35,000,000, and that most payments were made in cash and not by cheques.
In response, he told the commission that the assets were understated. He said there were abnormalities in the operation of the company because certain materials provided were not accounted for by showing receipts, and most payments were made in cash; adding that it was because of this that they decided to employ a manager and a financial personnel.
According to him, there were no material problems according to their report. It was put to him by Counsel Bensouda that the auditors said there was a fraud but the witness said there was no fraud although the auditors could not have access to some records.
He confirmed attending a meeting at the Ministry of Finance, where they were told to buy additional 10% shares but he made it categorically clear that SSHFC was not in position to buy more shares, because they did not have the money to do so. He said during the meeting, he came to know that NAWEC was supplied with oil owned by TOSTA, further indicating that they were worried when TOSTA said they were going to take legal action against the former government, and he was not surprised that when he was told that the said company had done so.
He further testified that Gam Petroleum management team accepted liability for the missing oil. When asked whether they were concerned in the absence of certainty in the investment of Gam Petroleum to the tune of €35,000,000, he said they were concerned.
Mr. Graham adduced that under his chairmanship, they made a profit of D90, 000,000. He said the former government believed that it was a monopoly and they were desperate to take over the shares.
On his travel to Switzerland with Kebba Touray, former minister of Finance, he said Mr. Touray asked him to accompany him for the negotiation of $24,000,000 demanded by TOSTA. He added that the meeting was about the strategic stock supplied to NAWEC which was a property of TOSTA.
However, Mr. Graham could not remember whether NAWEC was represented at that meeting; adding that he could not remember receiving management statements as well.
At this juncture, SSHFC folder containing correspondences regarding Gam Petroleum shares and the witness’ statements were admitted as exhibits.