By Binta Jaiteh
Abdoulie Hydara, former Director General of Gambia Tourism Board (GTBoard) who appeared through Zoom before the standing committee on public petition on the abuse and misuse of funds over alleged corruption says Fara Shams CEO of the Construct Limited supposed to contribute D900,000 annually until the office is completed.
He added that, the current arrangement of the GTBaord in the agreement Fara Shams is supposed to contribute D900.000 annually until the office is completed an additional cost to Fara Shams.
According to him, he said he was the chairman of GIA and he knew that it costly to have an office as they are still paying the loans in heavy cost. Adding that he is sure there are few institutions in the country owning (something) of that magnitude, having a cooperate office 2000 square meters within a location two floors ultra-modern building.
The former DG, in testimony before the standing committee on petition on tourism, he said, he took over office at GTBaord in June 2018, and the contract was to build GTBoard and Ministry of Tourism and Culture head office. The GTBoard supposed to pay 225,000.00 dollars on behalf of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture for the execution of the contract.
He added that, as far as the implementation of the contract is concern they are on track in terms of issues within the environment, political, economic and besides those challenges they were pushing very hard to make sure that the contract is implemented.
“Even though we have challenges of Ebola that brought a lot of negative impacts to the economy to both the GTBoard and the contractor in terms of cash flow and implementation of the project, there was a time we have the political impasse after the 2016 elections all this were parts to some of the delays in the execution of the contract,” he said.
He continued in his testimony that “I was there when the contract was almost completed at the material time before we came out of that contract everything was executed and the contract was shifted to another dimension.” Noting that, technically he was sent out for that incident to occur, but it was in the making adding that the contractor has done his analysis for the cost of the underground cost and it was translated to another period of agreement added to their original agreement of 35 years of contract.
He further said sometime in 2018, when the new administration came in they had a new Minister of Tourism and Culture and part of the formulation the Minister felt that GTBoard should not be in an office complex with shopping centre within that concrete.
“He summoned a meeting and informed us that we need to re-negotiate the contract so that GTBoard will have a sovereign that emanated and resulted to a discussion with Fara Shams. It was not an easy discussion because at that time Mr Sham has gone very far in terms of executing the first agreement that means he has to abandon the office spaces that were already been created.
“In the new agreement Fara Shams was not building 700 square meters with incensement to 2000 square meters. The GTBoard did not occupy the space because that contract was null and void. Therefore they will not and could not occupy that office simply because it was null and void. Currently the space that Mr Shams has created was for the GTBoard current staff and future staff expansion’’ he explained
However, he advised that the GTBoard needs to focus on the rebranding of the tourism sector in terms of destination arrival because this are the qualities of a good tourism industry and “our focus is diluted. If we want to emulate international best practice let the focus of the GTBoard not be only on revenue earning but in the implementation of the Gambian people’s needs.”
Meanwhile, Honorable Suwaibou Touray informed the witness that during his tenure the Minister intervened and sent some GTBoard staff to a salary of 50%.