TAT Exclusive: Investigation into Hamat Bah’s dealings reveals deep conflicts of interest, corruption, & nepotism

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Hamat Bah

The parliamentary Committee reviewing citizen petitions has made disturbing findings of impropriety, corruption, and abuse of power by Mr. Hamat Bah, formerly the Tourism Minister and now heading the Ministry responsible for state lands.

The report, exclusively for TAT, reveals the Committee’s findings on serious allegations at the Gambia Tourism Board, which manages the country’s tourism industry.

The report exposed alleged corruption in awarding contracts for eco-tourism camp construction across the country and for the GT Board and Ministry of Tourism office complex by the Construct Company.

The findings alleged unjustifiable funding of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, raising substantial allegations of corruption and embezzlement by senior officials in the GT Board’s management and the Ministry of Tourism.

“Over the years, the GT Board has been funding certain travels of the Ministry of Tourism at the expense of the deserving staff of the GT Board. These travels cannot be justified and have no relation with the GT Board. It has also been established that the Ministry just writes to the Director General asking them to settle travel tickets for the Ministry without any due process being followed, which has no relation to the activities of the Board. Earlier this year, The Director of Finance wasted millions on a nationwide trek headed by the Minister of Tourism and Culture without following proper financial procedures. Furthermore, the Honorable Minister has befriended the Director of Finance and Administration, GTBoard, which has made it possible for the DFA to cater expenses like fuel for the Ministry every week for both the Minister and the Permanent Secretary (wife of the DFA), even though they are allocated fuel at the Ministry’s level. The petitioners further tendered receipts for fuel payment for the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.” Part of the report seen by TAT stated.

“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 which 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. The following are some of the interferences of the Honourable Minister that have cost the GTBoard some revenue loss: waiving 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 34 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 in the rates for any investor, it should be tabled at the cabinet, which we doubt was the case. Honourable Minister has intervened in the allocation of land to MOAB capital, for which they were to pay $200 000 as a 5% TDA deposit fee but failed to pay and received their lease document, which contradicts the land allocation process.”

The Petitions Committee, however, made strong recommendations, including reprimanding the Chairman of the Contracts Committee for misguiding the Contract Committee members by giving a wrong analysis of the financial performances, which eventually affected the scoring or the evaluation process. This was done to favour Lerr Group Company.

“Lerr’s Financial Performance shows that the company is overtrading and has some Liquidity issues, which he failed to address as the Director of Finance and Administration, double-duty as Chairman of the Contracts Committee.”

The Committee also called on the Finance and Public Accounts Committee to investigate further ‘who gave the authority to build a hotel at Barra that was eventually abandoned, costing millions.’

.The petition committee also asked the Select Committee on Tourism, the Standing Committee on Public Appointments, and the Ombudsman to monitor and ensure that all the senior staff deployed and wrongfully terminated/dismissed as a result of this petition are recalled to the head office and reinstated to their former posts with immediate effect.

“FPAC and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture should ensure that all the staff deducted 50% of their salary per the minister’s directive are paid back all the amounts legally due to them. The Ombudsman, the Select Committee on Tourism and Culture, and the GT Board should ensure that the petitioners receive all the benefits they accrued. The National Audit Office should institute a staff audit as soon as possible, from January 2017 to December 2023, to ascertain the way appointments and promotions are conducted,” the Committee said

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