Please allow me space in your widely-read paper to add my voice on the current debate if I may call it; Seedy Jaiteh vs Sulayman Sidibeh. I want both Mr Jaiteh and Mr Sidibeh to note that I am not responding to attack any one of them as I do not get involved in personal attacks. However, if anyone of them think that I am attacking them personally, I will say to them to remove emotions from their interpretation of written text and keep it real.
I must say that Mr editor, I am dismayed and alarmed by the revelations coming out from this debate. I must hasten to say that I do not know Seedy Jaiteh or Sulayman Sidibeh neither do I want to know them. However, what is clear from the replies of Mr Sidibeh is that he is not cleaner than Mr Jaiteh as far as I am concerned and I will explain why I say that.
For starters Mr editor, there are a few things I want to straighten up: It is evident that Seedy was convicted by a court of law, and I am not legally qualified to comment on the partiality or other wise of the court so I will leave that to the legal minds. It is also evident that Seedy was released from prison following a presidential order to release all political prisoners and all illegally detained persons. I am not sure of the circumstances surrounding his release so again I will not go further into that. It is worth recognising that respect must be given to his release if this was a presidential pardon and gazetted. I heard from constitutional experts that “The president has the power to exercise his prerogative of mercy to release any prisoner”. I have not seen his name in the Gazette that has floated around recently and I do not know if this was a presidential pardon and has been Gazetted.
Moving on to the reason why I said that Mr Sidibeh is not cleaner than Mr Jaiteh, I will review certain points raised by Mr Sidibeh in his reply to the concerned Gamtel employee.
- That: Khadijatou Jallow Sarr used to take fuel coupons from HR to go to Basse and back in the name of going for official service.
I believe the concerned Gamtel employee mentioned in his query that the said Mrs Jallow Sarr used to visit her family in the provinces in the name of treks all approved by Mr Sidibeh. What I understand by that is; an unnecessary trek request will be made where the fuel cost will be met by Gamtel only for Mrs Jallow Sarr to go upcountry and spend time with her family all in the name of trek. Mr Sidibeh did not provide any evidence that this did not happen. What can confirm that the concerned Gamtel employee lied, is for Mr Sidibeh to provide justification for every single trek request he approved. Considering that he is not in office now, the records should be in Gamtel archives to prove this. Considering the above point I raised, I do not believe that the concerned Gamtel employee has lied just yet. You mentioned that Mrs Jallow Sarr is a Chartered Certified Accountant but that does not mean that she is not crooked. I am not saying that she is but how many chartered certified accountants have been disciplined every year for fraud and embezzlement?
- That: The Managing Director (Mr. Babucarr Sanyang) approved a car loan of D600,000 for me two years before I retired from service.
This is the point that raised my blood pressure. Mr Sidibeh, it does not matter who approved this loan but the fact that you have accepted to go home with D300,000 of tax payers’ money without losing sleep over it is indeed concerning. You stated as follows: “I would have been foolish not to grab this opportunity like all other Directors”. You are a chartered certified finance professional as many of us and we all know that ethical dilemmas are a part of being a professional but how you deal with them determines your professional standing. The fact that everybody is doing it does not make it right Mr Sidibeh. These are some of the points I raised in my Memo to the new Finance Minister and I hope he reads it.
You were given a loan of D600,000 and asked to pay only D300,000. This sounds like an “Ususu” club to me where members put money together and give to one person, except that in this case, the taxpayer is the looser. If you are a professional of high standing as you portray yourself, should you not highlight to Gamtel management that this “Free Money” could have been used to sponsor degree programs at the Gambia University? Imagine how many students will benefit from this. Alternatively, you could suggest an apprenticeship or work placement scheme where a trainee will be paid D2000 allowance a month to undergo work experience. What this means Mr Sidibeh is that your D300,000 will sponsor someone on work placement at Gamtel on an allowance of D2000 for 150 months; this is 12 and a half years Mr Sidibeh. Where is your ethical integrity? Things like this make me want to puke.
Putting that aside Mr Sidibeh, you received a loan of D600,000 but apparently paid D300,000. You did not disclose to GRA that you had additional income in the year on which you must pay tax. Now the tax due on your additional income could be considered under two categories: I will use the 2013 Tax Guide published by Panel Kerr Forster (PKF). If we consider this additional D300,000 as a “Fringe Benefit” taxed at 35% and payable by Gamtel. This equates to D105,000 which Gamtel must pay to GRA, so therefore, your loan costs the taxpayer an additional D105,000 in tax. You still go home and have a good night’s sleep. If this is considered as part of your salary, you owed GRA D90,000 in unpaid tax at 30% tax rate for a higher earner tax bracket in which directors fall, and I bet, you did not disclose this to GRA. Are you entirely clean Mr Sidibeh? Considering you have not mentioned in your write up that you have paid tax to GRA on this “Free Money”, should you not let CISA know that you have evaded tax and therefore surrender your membership?
- That: I arranged with the Gamtel Managing Director (Mr. Baboucarr Sanyang) and was paid per diem to travel to the U.S without securing clearance from the president.
The question I will ask here is why send you on a training course when it is evident that your contract is ending? Something smells fishy here, because I cannot see why someone whose contract will not be renewed will be sent on a course overseas fully paid for by Gamtel. If there were plans to renew your contract and there was expressed will on your part to return home, then I believe the contract was extended by implication. Considering you decided to stay in the United States, should you not pay back what was spent on you as a person with professional integrity? You see Mr Sidibeh, it is easy to see shortcomings on the side of other people but without self review, we tend to ignore our own shortcomings. Gamtel would have to spend more money to train someone to continue where you left off and you are still not remorseful. I cannot believe how on earth Gambia will develop when people who tasked with responsibility are only interested in enriching themselves. I swear down I feel like screaming here; uhrrrrrrr!
To conclude Mr editor, I will encourage the new Finance Minister Amadou Sanneh to institute a complete overhaul of the financial systems and processes of every sector under his remit and implement stringent controls. It is not going to be an easy task for Mr Sanneh and his ministry as some people in positions of trust and power will try every trick in the book to renege on systems and process improvements. I do not know Mr Sanneh but met him through one of his brothers who is my friend. This was before he was jailed and based on the little conversation I had with him in his office at AA & Co, he seemed to be a very principled man and I hope, he works for the benefit and interest of the Gambia and her people without fear and or favour.
I will end here by quoting President Barrow; “Forward ever backward never”.
Thanks for the space Pa Nderry.
Nuha Ceesay – United Kingdom