Gambia risked $100million lawsuit over ID cards contract

By Sanna Camara

Minister of Interior, Mai Ahmad Fatty has said that the Gambia government is obliged to pay up to $100million to Semlex, the firm originally awarded the national ID cards contract in 2016.

Mai Fatty 1

Fatty said government of The Gambia does not have such kind of money. And that they do not want to go through an adjudication process, so they were compelled to renegotiate. “That is what we are engaged in,” he told journalists at the press conference on Thursday.

“I neither took any bribes nor awarded them any contract for the production of national identity cards in The Gambia. In fact, I have never awarded any contract since assuming office as minister,” he said.

The said contract is merely being renegotiated by the new government after it was already awarded by Jammeh and later, illegally terminated.

Terminated against advice

They contract was awarded by the former president, according to records. Semlex began importing technological equipment to implement the contract at the value of $D10million and those machines are still here in the country, the minister said.

“The Solicitor General at the time advised against terminating the contract with Semlex. Because there was a clause I the contract which states that when contract is terminated after implementation began, the Gambia government is obliged to pay up to $100million to the contractor. We do not have such kind of money,” Fatty explained.

According to him, two processes were employed in determining the contractor: A ministerial committee was to study the feasibility of the Semlex proposal before it could mature into a contract. While a technical committee was to look into the dynamics and efficiency of the Semlex proposal. There was a conclusion from both the technical body of professionals and those of policy maker that it was a good proposal.

“Equipment were imported… but just before they could position themselves to carry out the practicalities of the project, Yahya Jammeh wrote a letter, a presidential directive, cancelling the contract,” Fatty said

“The official position of the Ministry of Justice said ‘you cannot do that’. Yet Jammeh went ahead and wrongfully terminated it, against the law. So Semlex feeling that the contract was violated, wrote to say, when remedies are not taken, they will exercise their rights under the contract.”

He said that just as that transaction was ongoing, a political impasse came and a new government took over. They continued writing to him as the new minister.

“When I received the letter, I took it to cabinet. We realized that it was wrongfully terminated because it went against the advice of the ministry of justice. There was always a valid contract, it was never cancelled according to law,” he said.

Under the old contract, government was entitled to 30 percent, while Semlex 70 percent. “We felt that was unfair, government shares should be more. That is what is being negotiated with Semlex currently but we did not award the contract originally,” he added.

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