By: Kebba AF Touray
Gambian authorities have disclosed to members of the Finance and Public Accounts Committee of the National Assembly (FPAC) that no agreements exist between the Gambia and Senegal on all the forfeited timber, seized on Gambian soil.
This disclosure was made to members of FPAC during last Monday’s engagement with officials of the National Audit Office (NAO), the Accountant General’s Department (AGD), and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (MoFEA).
During the meeting, all the said authorities were asked to state whether such an agreement exists but each replied in the negative.
A resolution made for the Environment Ministry’s PS to provide all the agreements between the Gambia and Senegal forms part of Resolution 8 which was passed by the FPAC. During the interface, it was disclosed to the members of the Committee that no such agreement exists regarding timber forfeiture on Gambian soil.
Resolution 8 of FPAC reads that ‘‘the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment must provide to the Auditor General and FPAC on or before 28th September 2023, all agreements they have with the Government of Senegal relating to all forfeited timber seized on Gambian soil and all payments made from such proceeds”.
According to Accountant General Agnes Macaulay Jagne, it is the Office of the President that normally gives approval for them to reimburse anybody, from the timber proceeds.
However, when asked to dilate on the timber proceeds, she informed members of FPAC that the documentation that she saw, was based on sharing ration between the Governments of Gambia and Senegal. This, she said, means that part of it comes as Government revenue.
The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, AbdoulieJallow, at this stage, was also asked to state whether or not such agreements exist, to which he replied in the negative.
Asked about the latest update on the resolution, the NAO official said no formal agreement has been submitted during their audit on the said matter.
Reading a letter addressed to the Auditor General and FPAC during the interface, Hon. Alhagie S. Darboe, the Chairperson of the Committee, said the Environment Ministry informed them that according to their records, there is no trace of any formal agreement signed between the Gambia and Senegal relating to forfeited timber seized on Gambian soil. Nonetheless, he said payments made from proceeds were lodged in a special account jointly administered by the Ministries of Environment and Finance. In its letter addressed to FPAC, he said the Environment Ministry also provided the code numbers number of the account.
Meanwhile, FPAC said since the resolution requires the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance to provide all agreements with Senegal on the forfeited timber seized on Gambian soil and the proceeds accrued from therefrom, the resolution can be referred to the IGP for investigations because the PS said there is no such agreement. It added that it is crucial to investigate why the sum of D50 Million was paid to the Senegalese Government from the proceeds of the said timber, to avert them make assumptions or conclusions without concrete evidence.