Dr Ceesay claims excess fund already paid on media service contract is for contingency 

Dr Ismaila Ceesay, the Minister of Information. Picture source ‘What’s On-Gambia’.

The minister of information, Dr Ismaila Ceesay, claimed the over D800 thousand excess fund allocated to the execution of the media service contract was contingency fund, though half of the money was paid upon signing the contract. 

A predecessor of Dr Ceesay, Lamin Queen Jammeh, and his permanent secretary Yankuba Saidy  who was demoted to director of admin at Prison Services on Friday, have signed a contract with 5 media companies and 2 content creators to “publicise” government agenda in February 2024. It is unclear what prompted Saidy’s demotion. 

The total worth of the controversial contract approved by the Gambia Public Procurement Authority was D40, 145, 648. The beneficiaries were QTV Gambia D5, 749, 824; Mediamatic and Paradise TV D5, 726, 400; Fatu Network: D5, 976, 000; Star TV/Radio: D5, 745, 000; Eye Africa TV: D5, 723, 424; Fandema Multimedia: D5, 650, 000 and Sparkling Multimedia: D5, 575, 000. 

In May 2024, the Ministry of Information— in response to a parliamentary question by member for Janjanbureh Omar Jammeh— said the total worth of the contract is D41 million. This leaves a discrepancy of at least D854, 352.

A copy of the Ministry of Information’s reply to Omar Jammeh’s questions where the total value of the contract is indicated to be at D41m.

In an interview at his office on June 29, Dr Ceesay claimed the D854, 352 was a contingency fund. “The D800, 000 was put aside as a contingency. That is my understanding. But if there is no contingency, you don’t have to use it,” said Dr Ceesay. 

The contract obliged the government to pay half upon signing by parties. This amounts to D20, 072, 824. And half of what Dr Ceesay claimed was contingency fund was already paid immediately after the contract was signed. 

The Republic, in an investigation published in May, has confirmed that the Ministry of Finance has paid D20.5m— D427, 176 more than half of the contract— upon signing of the contract back in February 2024. And D427, 176 is exactly half of the D854, 352 Dr Ceesay claimed to be the contingency fund. 

‘Probing ownership of content creators’ 

An investigation published by The Republic in May found the content creators–Fandema Multimedia, registered on November 26, 2015 and Sparkling Multimedia Agency, registered on January 17, 2023— are reportedly owned by the same person and the name on their registration is merely a front. 

While Fandema has a Facebook page, and an office, it does not have a functioning website as of April 9 2024. 

The Republic has verified that the mobile numbers on the registration details of Sparkling belong to Sulayman Sawaneh, a brother of Sheikh Omar who serves as their accountant. One of his Africell numbers was used to create Sulayman’s Facebook account

Sheikh Omar declined to comment on the matter. Dr Ceesay said his ministry has heard about the allegations and they will investigate it to ascertain its validity. 

“We will investigate because I also got that information,” said Dr Ceesay. “This can be a rumor. It can be factual. Until an investigation is done to ascertain whether it is true or not, I cannot confirm the story.”

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