Jawneh was employed in 2014 as a data entry clerk, a position which he served till 2016. In 2017, he was a revenue collector under license and was appointed as a procurement clerk around October 2019.
Jawneh obtained a diploma in banking and finance from MDI, a diploma in ABE and a certificate level 1 in procurement at the Gambia Public Procurement Institute (GPPI).
At the commencement of hearing, Mr Jawneh ’s written statement (dated 15 May 2023), four tender documents (Four Forms 001 – Record of Opening of Tender for the Construction of Baja Kunda Bridge, Samba Lolo Bridge, Song Kunda Bridge and Sarre Bojo-Sarre Mansa Feeder Road), an evaluation report for the projects prepared by the contracts committee, minutes of bid opening prepared by the Contracts Committee pertaining to the projects, and the minutes of contracts committee meeting were all tendered and admitted into evidence.
Jawneh said he is the only one working at the procurement unit, adding that the only time he had an assistant was last year.
“The structure of the procurement unit at the Basse Area Council is not wide. Since I was redeployed to that unit, there was no one there to guide me,” he testified.
Chairperson Jainaba Bah informed him that the details of the forms were not completed and the witness affirmed as such.
“Why do you attach forms that were not completed?” Chairperson Bah quizzed.
“That was an oversight,” the witness responded.
“So you were alone,” Lawyer Patrick Gomez asked, and the witness affirmed.
Mr Jawneh also revealed that there was no procurement plan for the council in 2020.
“You were not making decisions regarding procurement in 2020,” Lawyer Gomez asked.
The witness responded in the affirmative, saying he “doesn’t know much”.
He acknowledged that he was only given instructions and told to fill out forms.
Moreover, the witness said the procurement rules were not mainly followed in 2020 based on two reasons: one was because of his lack of knowledge and experience, and the second reason was he was directed by his boss, CEO Ousman Touray, to do procurements. He expressed that he felt that he was obliged to follow those instructions.
On whom he reports to, Mr Jawneh said he reports directly to the CEO. He explained that the CEO used to make minutes on documents and ask him to do procurement. He said he is the secretary to the contracts committee.
Questioned as to how many people constituted the contracts committee in 2020, he said there were only four.
A compliance review report by the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA), which was before the Commission, indicated that the contracts committee only had three (3) people – CEO Ousman Touray, Director of Finance Lamin Suso and Procurement Muhammed Jawneh. The witness confirmed the information as true.
Asked whether he had a record of all the transactions in 2020, the witness said: “For me, any transactions I do, I give it to Finance [unit]. I don’t have records. At the time, my knowledge in procurement was limited.”
“Were these rules followed in 2020?” Lawyer Gomez asked.
Mr Jawneh testified that due to certain factors, rules were not followed
“Seven (7) boreholes were dug in 2020 through single-source, and it was way beyond the threshold for single-sourcing. It was a directive from my boss, the CEO,” the witness said.
The witness said he was informed that the borehole project was part of the strategic plan of the Basse Area Council.
The witness said the CEO, Yaya T.B. Ceesay and the Chairman of the council all told him that the council does not have money for the borehole projects, but the contractor they have identified was ready to do it for the area council to pay later.
“The Contractor was a friend to the chairman of the Basse Area Council, Foday Danjo. There was nothing done in terms of procurement rules. There was no evaluation done and there was no bidding,” the witness testified.
Regarding this borehole project, the witness said there was no contracts committee meeting and no procurement rule was followed.
The witness said the Contracts Committee sits only when the need arises.
When pressed by Counsel Gomez to say whether he has minutes of the contracts committee meetings, the witness changed his statement and said the contracts committee does not sit over the overwhelming majority of the procurements.
On minutes of meetings by the contracts committee, he said they don’t usually have them.
The witness said the contracts committee minutes he provided to the Commission were doctored.
“They asked you to prepare the minutes and backdate it,” Chairperson Bah asked.
“Yes,” the witness said, further adding that he just wrote it and they signed it.
“There was no meeting. There was no discussion,” the witness said.
“In 2020, there was no open tender or tendering of any form?” Lawyer Gomez said. He also agreed.
Mr Jawneh also said there was high interference with the work of the procurement unit by the CEO and the Director of Finance.