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Police Investigator Begins Testimony In Health Ministry Officials’ Corruption Trial 

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Health Ministry Officials accused of corruption

By Landing Ceesay 

Corporal Sheriff S. Corr, a member of the Gambia Police Force Fraud Squad, took the stand to testify in the corruption trial involving three officials from the Ministry of Health.

The accused individuals from the Ministry of Health are Mr. Balla Kandeh (the first accused), Mr. Omar Malleh Ceesay (the second accused), and Mr. Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh (the third accused).

Corporal Corr informed the court that he recognized all the accused persons undergoing trial. Additionally, he told the court that the investigation originated from a complaint letter received in January 2023 from the Ministry of Health. The letter requested an inquiry into an audit report on the National Malaria Control Program, spanning from October 2018 to December 2019, revealing an alleged misuse of Global Funds grants amounting to GMD 11,470,023.

“It was through a complaint letter which emanated from the Ministry of Health in January of 2023 requesting for an investigation into an Audit report that was conducted on the National Malaria Control Program from the period of October 2018 to December of 2019, which uncovers an alleged ineligible expenditure of Global Funds grants in the amount of GMD 11,470,023,” Corporal Corr told the court.

 

Upon receiving the letter at the Fraud Squad, Corporal Corr reported that diary entries were promptly recorded, and a three-member panel was established to investigate the alleged corruption.

Subsequently, the accused individuals were formally invited to the Fraud Squad located at Police Headquarters in Banjul to provide clarification regarding the unfolding controversy.

Upon their arrival at the Fraud Squad, the accused were directly confronted with the allegations, as explained by Corporal Corr during the court proceedings.

Corporal Corr further disclosed that the investigative panel, led by Inspector Bakary Drammeh, included Corporal Modou Gaye as a member and himself, Corporal Sheriff S. Corr.

It was noted that Inspector Bakary Drammeh had been transferred to Manjai Police Station, while Corporal Modou Gaye was currently serving in the UN Mission in Darfur, South Sudan.

Following these developments, Corporal Corr informed the court that statements were subsequently obtained from the accused individuals.

“It was revealed during the investigation that the Ministry of Health, in the year 2018, received a grant confirmation of USD 13 thousand meant for scaling malaria control from 2018 to 2020. When it was time to implement the activities, the Ministry of Health contacted HePDo to conduct the said activities.

“However, The panel embarked on a countrywide tour to ascertain if the studies were conducted within the various corners of the Gambia. If yes, to identify and interact with Regional Health Directorates and field workers who took part in the said survey,” Corporal Corr told the court. 

When inquired about the entity responsible for conducting the studies or survey, Corporal Corr stated that HePDO had been tasked with overseeing the survey.

During their countrywide tour, the corporal revealed that HePDO was identified as the entity conducting the studies.

He elaborated that HePDO was expected to engage consultants, and according to HePDO documents, consultants, namely Muhammed Sissoho, Basiru Phillott, Abou Sallah, and Mamout Ceesay, were indeed hired.

In court, Corporal Corr attested that the documents presented were contractual agreements between HePDO and the mentioned consultants.

“If you see those contract documents, would you identify them?,” Counsel AM Yusuf, Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), asked Corporal Corr. “Yes,” Corporal Corr responded. 

When asked how, Corporal Corr told the court that the documents contained the names of the consultants. 

The contract documents were given to Corporal Corr for identification, and he confirmed to the court these were the documents. 

DPP Yusuf applied to tender the documents as evidence. 

However, the defense attorney, Counsel Lamin S. Camara, representing the accused individuals, raised an objection to the inclusion of the documents as evidence.

Counsel LS Camara contended that the documents presented were photocopies rather than originals, and pointed out that the prosecution, led by DPP Yusuf, failed to establish a proper foundation for the admission of these documents into evidence.

Additionally, Counsel LS Camara emphasized that the documents lacked accompanying certificates, highlighting that they were mere photocopies.

In response, DPP Yusuf stated that they lack the original copies of the documents and have subsequently submitted a notice to produce, urging the defense to present the originals.

Counsel LS Camara contested, asserting that the accused couldn’t possibly have possession of the documents. LS Camara clarified that the documents originated from HePDO, and the accused individuals are being tried as private entities.

Emphasizing HePDO as the custodian, LS Camara clarified that the institution, not the accused, is responsible for producing the original copies of the documents.

Presiding Judge Hon. Justice Ebrima Jaiteh proposed issuing a summons to HePDO to procure the documents instead of serving a notice to the accused. Both the Prosecution and the Defense concurred with Hon. Justice Jaiteh.

Subsequently, Hon. Justice Jaiteh directed HePDO to furnish the court with the original documents pertaining to the contract agreement between them and their consultants.

The proceedings were adjourned until December 11, 2023, for further continuation.

Background of the Case 

Mr. Balla Kandeh (the 1st accused), Mr. Omar Malleh Ceesay (the 2nd accused), and Mr. Muhammadou Lamin Jaiteh (the 3rd accused) are facing a total of 19 charges against them.

The charges brought forth by the State encompass official corruption, violating Section 86(a) of the Criminal Code; failure to fulfill statutory duties under Section 115 of the Criminal Code; conspiracy to commit a felony under Section 368 of the Criminal Code; and two counts of economic crimes as specified in Section 5(a) of the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Act, cap 13:07, punishable under Section 6(1) of the Economic Crimes (Specified Offences) Act.

Furthermore, the accused are also facing eight counts of forgery, as stipulated in Section 318 of the Criminal Code, and five counts of theft, in violation of Section 252 of the Criminal Code.

These individuals are alleged to have embezzled and stolen a substantial sum of D24,313,332.26 (Twenty-Four Million, Three Hundred and Thirteen Thousand, Three Hundred and Thirty-Two Dalasis Twenty-Six Bututs) during their tenure at the Ministry of Health. Additionally, they are accused of stealing USD 59,256.00, equivalent to D3,901,829.83 (three million, nine hundred and one thousand, eight hundred and twenty-nine dalasis, and eighty-three bututs) while serving at the Ministry of Health.

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