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GAMBIA: HOW WAS THE CONTRACT FOR THE 87 NEW VEHICLES FOR USE DURING THE ONE-WEEK-LONG OIC CONFERENCE

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Open Gambia Platform (OG) investigations revealed a lack of transparency and accountability surrounding the procurement contract for the initially specified one hundred vehicles for the OIC summit awarded to Mohammed Jah’s company, Espace Motors, a subsidiary of the Q group.

The awarding of the vehicle contract raised a public outcry from the moment the official handing over was conducted at Macarty Square, with Barrow’s Cabinet lauding Mohammed Jah during the handing over of the vehicles to President Barrow and announcing the delivery of 87 cars instead of the 100 vehicles ordered through questionable Pre-finance scheme due to the government’s lack of funds.

Many people have observed the discrepancy between the 87 cars delivered, contrary to the one hundred vehicles on the official tender document and THE declaration by the Chairman of the OIC Secretariat that the government ordered 100 vehicles.

OG came across two letters of a petition addressed to President Barrow, written by some vehicle companies that took part in the bidding process for the 100 vehicles protesting the unfair tender process overseen by the Directorate of Public Procurement under the supervision of the Finance Ministry.

The companies expressed their deep disappointment and displeasure at handling the tender process, which they deemed unfair and possibly illegal. It contradicts all the national procurement rules, regulations, and policies.

They claimed that the contract was awarded to ESPACE MOTORS, a company owned by Mr Muhammed Jah, a close Friend of the Finance Minister (Sidi Keita), and Mohammed Jah had been seen behind closed doors to be very influential in controlling the tender process from the combined technical specs submitted in the Bid document up to how the entire evaluation process was conducted. They questioned the award of the contract to Espace Motors without proper justification or adherence to the established procurement procedures.

An officer at the Finance Ministry the OG spoke to on condition of anonymity said that the entire tender process was a fraud; it was only a few selected senior officials within the Finance Ministry, the Gambia Public Procurement Authority and the Chief of Staff at the Office of the President who was acting to protect the President’s interest who controller the entire procurement process ensuring the award of contract to ESPACE MOTORS.

The Ministry of Finance Officer said The pre-financing arrangement is a gimmick utilised to disqualify other bidders who do not have a strong connection with the regime, unlike Mohammed Jah. Therefore, other vehicle dealers have a low appetite for Govt debt, which might take very long to recover and hamstring their cash flow.

One can bet that Espace Motors will be paid for the supply of the 87 vehicles within a few months, as was the case with Hadim Gai (Gai Enterprise), who was awarded the Banjul Streets Rehabilitation Project (flawed work) because they falsely claimed they are the only bidder willing to refinance the project. After execution commenced, payments were allegedly made within 6-8 weeks after their interim certificates of completion were submitted.

The Finance Officer further said that the Barrow administration uses Pre-finance as a strategy to circumvent the single-source award of contracts to make the bidding under a regular tender look legitimate, precisely the same method used for Mohammed Jah got the prize of the GTSC bus procurement contract to ESPACE MOTORS & TK MOTORS and the award of a $50 Million agricultural loan to another Barrow Business patron Ahmadi Jah of Jah Oil.

OG accessed the vehicle procurement bidding document submitted by all bidders; we found that the vehicle delivered by Espace Motors has significant discrepancies in the number of vehicles required, the models, and the engine specifications of the cars compared to the information submitted in the tender document.

For example,

1: the bid document mentions one hundred (100) vehicles (as noted by OIC). Yet, Espace Motors delivered only eighty-seven (87), and no one knows what happened to the remaining thirteen (13) vehicles.

2: The tender document stated the requested vehicles must be forty (40) SaloOn cars and Sixty (60) SUVs, and All vehicles must have a petrol engine. Instead, Espace Motors delivered eight (😎 salon cars and seventy-nine (79) SUVs. They failed to meet the requirements for all vehicles to be petrol engines, as the seventeen (17) Prado Landcruiser SUVs delivered have diesel engines. Also, the SUV engine size was specified as a four-cylinder, but Espace Motors delivered Eight-cylinder SUVs.

When OG enquiries about the price paid for vehicles, he admitted that he hadn’t seen the final contract document because, during the latter PHASE, everything was conducted in secret and only by the President’s Chief of Staff (MOD Ceesay), The Finance Minister with few very Senior Officers and Mohammed Jah had access to the details.

He said according to the information making the rounds at the finance ministry, Espace Motors is charging the government the following duty-free unit price for the vehicles they delivered which do not comply with the specified criteria:

1. 64 X Toyota Land Cruiser GX at $176.994 or D12 Million each.

2. 6 X Benz’s class at €140,640 or D10 million each.

3. 17 X Toyota Prado VX price unknown

The market prices of the vehicles supplied by Espace Morors ranged from:

1. Toyota Land Cruiser GX $75,000 to 80,000.

2. Toyota Prado VX $65,955.

3. Benz S-class 2023 model ranges from $110,000 to $115,000.

It’s glaring after examining the information in the bidding document compared to what Espace Motors delivered and the protest letter submitted by other competitors that the entire tender process was a sham exercise to legitimise the unfair awarding of the contract to a Barrow regime crony – making the whole process lacking transparency and accountability whiles fostering grand corruption.

The vast discrepancy between the bidding document and what Espace Motors delivered points to a grand corruption scheme unleashed by Mohamed Jah, facilitated by the Finance Minister and the President’s Chief of Staff for benefits Mohammed Jah, President Barrow and the NPP party and leaving the Gambian taxpayers to take up the burden.

An example is the missing thirteen (13) vehicles and supplying a more significant number (79) of non-compliant SUVs and (😎 Salon cars instead of the 60 SUVs & 40 Salon cars stated in the bid document with inferior engine types, maximising the profit for ESPACE MOTORS and personal gain for Mohammed Jah and the possible benefits, to the Barrow regime in the form of campaign finance or continue illicit personal generational wealth accumulation.

The lack of transparency and accountability in the entire process warrants that every moral Citizen Demand that their Members of Parliament call for an investigation and the national audit office investigate the bidding process and the signed contract.

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