Gambia’s Interior Minister Mai Fatty, has vehemently denied receiving bribes from the Belgian biometric passport and Identity Card Company Semlex, so that the company can be awarded contract by the Gambia government to issue biometric passports and ID cards to Gambians. The Minister made the denial on Thursday during a news conference held at his office at the Kanifing Municipal Council locality.

“I want to be very clear here: Pa Nderry M’Bai of Freedom Radio is asking whether I receive bribes, or whether I was bribed by Semlex in order to award them a contract. First of foremost, there is no award of contract to Semlex. I did not award any contract. The contract as I explained is very clear; was awarded by the former president Yahya Jammeh. He cancelled it through an Executive Directive against the advice of Ministry of Justice. When we came around, we followed the same advice of the Ministry of Justice under the previous government. And we are seeking to renegotiate the terms,” Mr. Fatty said while being surrounded by service chiefs of the police, the prison, Fire and Ambulance Services, and anti-narcotic officials.

“Whether I have been bribed? I have not been bribed. And if anybody, who has any evidence to show that I have been bribed, please I welcome you from any part of the world to come and show that,” Fatty said.

Sounding confident during his deliberations, Mr. Fatty said the previous contract signed between the former Jammeh government and Semlex was not fair to the government. He said under the past contract The Gambia was supposed to get 30 % (percent) of the monies accrued from the biometric passport and ID card contract, while 70% of the proceeds derived from contract goes into the pockets of Simlex. Hence, he said, the old contract is being renegotiated by the new government.  

Mr. Fatty also defended his recent statement in parliament that Pristine Gambia limited was not involved in the production of biometric passports.

“The other question is: Whether I stand by my statement in parliament that Pristine was not involved in biometric passport production? Yes, I stand by that. Pristine was never involved in biometric passport production of any nature. I stand by that statement,” Fatty remarked.

The question of an open tender for the biometric project is not feasible at this time. Fatty maintains that the old Semlex/ Gambia government contract is still valid.

“The question is: Will we make an open tender so that others can come forward? We already have a contract; We already have a valid contract on the table. This is our position. We already have a valid contract on the table. We are seeking to renegotiate that,” he added.

Mr. Fatty also went further to back up his claims that the contract between the two parties is still valid. Mai Fatty again. “For those who said there was no contract signed with Semlex, here is the contract. This is the contract signed between the Gambia government Semlex. This is the signature column signed. The signature column is here; it was signed on the 16th of June 2016 by them; on behalf of the Gambia government also on the 16th on the same date. These are the provision of the contract between the Gambia government and Simlex. There is a valid contract.”

The Interior Minister also clarified that the $48 million lab project was at no cost to government. He said the investor is a Senegalese national, who is working with other partners to introduce a forensic lab in the Gambia. Fatty challenged reporters to visit the Ministry of Justice, where he said, the company has been incorporated.

Fatty says under the new deal, the forensic company will enjoy five years tax free regime, and will help to train Gambian security officials on forensic research and analysis. He said government is also expected to provide land for the Senegalese company to operate.

On the Pa Ebou Sanyang, rented property by the Ministry of Interior, Fatty said there was no underhand dealings in the lease contract. He said the Ministry of Finance and Vice President’s office handled the leasing contract. He said he doesn’t know the amount involved in the said lease.

Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai

Editors note: The story above was published on July 27th 2017. 

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