Probe into land allocations for tourism development implicates former Minister Hamat Bah

Hamat Bah

The National Assembly’s Petition Committee, led by Hon. Suwaibou Touray, conducted a thorough investigation and found evidence that supports the allegations against former Minister of Tourism and Culture Hamat N K Bah for interfering with allocating prime lands within the designated tourism development area.

After tabling its findings before parliament last week, the petitions committee exposed how the previous minister in charge of tourism personally granted exemptions on payments meant for state coffers by foreign companies like Kaijaung Holdings Ltd, the priority leisure group, and MOAB, among others. Thus, the government was denied much-needed finances through the GTBoard.

The Committee advised the Finance and Public Accounts Committee (FPAC) to oversee the establishment of an independent commission to investigate land allocation to investors in TDA since 2017. A quantity surveyor should be appointed to review project applications, advise on the total investment quoted, and ensure accurate costing based on land size.

The Committee further advised FPAC to conduct thorough research and compile a comprehensive report on the revenues obtained from the levies, including how they were used.

It has also been established that the Honourable Minister has been interfering in the allocation of land within the TDA and has been giving directives to the director general to implement contain intervention, which has caused the GTBoard to lose revenue in the allocation of prime lands in the TDA as the Honourable Minister waived some revenues that the Board should have collected for no justified reasons,” NA Petition Committee highlighted in its Report before Deputies.

“The following are some of the interferences of the Honourable Minister that have cost the GTBoard some lost in revenue: waiving of 3% of the 5% levy that Kaijiang Holding Group Ltd. A letter was received from MoTC to GTBoard directing that 2% of the $750 000 should be taken as a TDA deposit fee from the investor and waiving the 3% levy. This means the GTBoard will only receive $ 300,000 and stand to lose $ 450,000. The Cabinet approved this 5% levy, and if there should be only a reduction on the rates for any investor, it should be tabled at the Cabinet, which we doubt was the case in this matter,” the reports say.

The Petition Committee also uncovered that Hon. Hamat N K Bah has also interfered in the allocation of another prime land within the TDA to MOAB Capital Investors, who were supposed to pay $200 000 as a 5% TDA deposit, revealing that this deposit has never been paid even though their lease document was issued contradicting the land allocation process.

The Priority Leisure Group of investors needs to be reviewed in terms of payment for the 5% levy as the total cost of investment amounting to D27.5 million, which is seen to be below the amount to pay the levy, which is causing the GT Board to lose revenue. This company should be investigated more for the fact that the list of the shareholders as per the requirement was not indicated and was allocated an enormous land measuring 107m x 75m x 42m x 47m x 76m at the center of the TDA(prime land)at the Duplex area.” NA Petition Committee further disclosed in its Report

The Report seen by TAT indicates: “The transaction involving this company also involves a relative (daughter) who participated in the board meeting during this process. More investigation is needed on the land issued to MOAB Capita Ltd. The investor acquired a lease before paying the 5% levy, which was only paid after the petition. If the petition was not done, the GT Board may not have received the $200,000 development levy.”

The Committee further recommended that the Cabinet should set up a Lands Committee that will include the following sectors: GT Board, Lands Office, National Environment Agency, and Geology Unit, to ensure that allocation of land in the TDA is adequately vetted to avoid duplication and ensure sectoral collaboration, adding that the Select Committee on Regional Government, Lands, Ombudsman and IEC and the Select Committee on Tourism, Culture, Youth, and Sports should monitor this and report back to the Assembly within six months.

“As per the cabinet approval of the 5% development levy, the Minister of Tourism and Culture should not have the discretion to waive the levy for any investor. The Governing Body should make all land allocations, not the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. If there needs to be any waiver, the Governing Body must engage in a cost-benefit analysis and justify further approval by Cabinet,” the NA Petition Committee submitted.

Leave a Reply