Sunday, March 26

Benjamin Roberts appears before House committee over alleged corruption

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By Binta Jaiteh

Honorable Benjamin Roberts, former Director General of The Gambia Tourism Board, who has also served as Minister of Tourism and Culture in the past, on Monday appeared before the National Assembly standing committee on public petition over alleged corruption and abuse of office.

According to a petition letter written by some staff of the GTBoard, the abuse of power and corruption on the board was a outright and open corruption by both the erstwhile Director General, Abdoulie Hydara and the Director of Finance and Administration, Mr Ousainou Seghore, this director who placed to manage the affairs and develop the tourism industry economically misused and abused the funds.

However, Benjamin Roberts informed lawmakers that: “the appointed (former) Director General Abdoulie Hydara who I worked with at some point has informed that the GTBoard and Ministry of Tourism are thinking of coming out with this agreement in terms of the housing complex which has prompted that conversation when the GTB went and occupied their current office former Dream Park.”

“The 225,000.00 dollars was per the reckoning of Fara Shams who is the contractor in the will of this complex, so when he has mentioned that figure, I have taken the figure to the Ministry to say this is the amount the contractor is demanding. At the level of the GTBoard they will tell you initially exactly which was not amicably to the Ministry but that is also another internal matter the important thing is ultimately we obliged to the demand of the Ministry,” he added.

According to him, when Fajara land was allocated to Construct Limited there was an agreement that was signed different from this one in 2011 I was not at the board by then, in that contract signed Construct Limited will provide D6 million towards the construction of the GTB.

“When I engaged GTBoard at that time in terms of the amount we have for the construction of the head office, the total budgeted amount was D11 million, D6 million from the pledge of Fara Shams made plus the D5 million. 225 million dollars is totally separate from those two figures that came as a result of the Ministry wanting to have their office within the complex of the contract because the 6 million from Shams towards our office and the 5 million, we have budgeted became redundant,” he said.

“Furthermore, the 6 million was never given by Shams and is null and void plus the 5 million adding that there was hesitation on the part of GTBoard to pay that amount because we did not want the Ministry to be in the same complex due to the Mministry office at Quadrangle but the reason best known to the Ministry. I heard that the President had plans to do away with all the Ministries in that Quadrangle Complex and it was the reason why the Ministry was opted meanwhile this was going to be a financial burden on the GTBoard and that is why we negotiated that sum will not be paid but rather to have a payment plan with Construct Limited.

However, he noted that the contrct was signed in 2014 and should and supposed to finish in 2016 though it was not completed until the contractor started earning revenue but “I Know that the this contract has been overcome by Shams,” he added.

More so, he said if Shams made profit or not, it will be based on if the agreement is known and that may not be valuable because what provided is not on the ground and when “we undertake every step by the board of directors to ensure that we are not at the losing end. Due to that year leased term we give chance to Shams to recover its investment and also for the GTB during that 35-year period 750,000 dollars supposed to be earned from operationalizing skill of every business occupying this facility,” he explained.