Defense Continues Testimony
Mr. Kawsu Ceesay, the former IEC Chief Electoral Officer who stands accused of fraud in the D6m forgery case filed against him by the state, last Friday continued his testimony.
According to the accused, in January 2006, Mr. Ndondi Njie instructed him through the office’s intercom to ask Code Incorporated to delay the shipment of the electoral materials that the code company was putting together to ship to the IEC in Banjul. He added that prior to this and after the firm order was placed the IEC, through his advice to Mr. Ndondi Njie, was supposed to ensure that the constituency names were inserted on the voters’ cards as the old registration cards that were made in 2001 did not have constituency names on the cards. "I discussed the issues with Mr. Njie so that Code Incorporated should indicate the constituency names on the new cards as it was a constitutional requirement," Mr. Ceesay noted, adding: "My Njie agreed with me and asked me to discuss the issue with Code Incorporated which I did."
Further testifying, Mr. Ceesay informed the court that in an email message, Code Incorporated confirmed that it was possible without any further cost to the IEC as they had the art. The accused stated that Mr. Njie accepted the terms as it was expected that the arrangement would prevent the IEC from making further payment to have locally made constituency stickers which are attached to constituency cards.
He adduced that he thus went ahead to show Code Incorporated where the constituency names should be placed on the voter cards. According to him Code in turn requested IEC to advise on whether the numbering of the voter registration cards should continue from where it stopped in 2001 or not. "All these were discussed with Mr. Njie, who gave me verbal instruction to go ahead with the negotiation," he adduced.
Mr. Ceesay further stated that after providing all those details to Code Incorporated and his signing of the approval for the printing with Mr. Njie’s consent, Code went ahead with the printing of the voter registration cards. Mr. Ceesay said that as the voter registration exercise was supposed to start in March 2006, the dead line given to Code was mid February 2006, by which time the registration materials had to arrive in Banjul so as to allow for the distribution to various IEC regional offices before the commencement of the voter registration exercise.
However as the mode of funding, Mr. Ceesay went on, had not been communicated by the middle of February, Code sent an email requesting IEC to update them on the issue of order. "They made enquiry on the phone and spoke to the then Director of Operations, Mr. Harry Sambou," he said, adding that it was at that time that Mr. Njie started telling him that he had not asked him to place any order for election materials. He disclosed that he refused to accept that point of view as, he had argued, he could not place an order for election materials without the authority of the IEC Chairman, Mr. Ndondi Njie.
He said throughout February, Mr. Njie kept requesting him to look for quotation from other potential suppliers of election materials, which he obtained and handed over to Ndondi Njie. "I sensed at the time that Mr. Njie was trying to build up a case in his favour. Also in the same time the donor community in Banjul had not come up with any decision as to how they could assist in the election process. Only the EU said it was interested in the voter education package from the donor assistance document," he stated.
According to him around March-April 2006, a meeting with the donor community was convened at the finance department, where the donor community decided to set up a basket fund to assist the election process in The Gambia and it was agreed that the UNDP should secure an election expert to manage the fund.
In March 2006, he added, Code Company sent another email asking the IEC to advise on the situation of the order but that it was then that Mr. Njie denied ever authorising him to place an order. He said in the email, Mr. Njie gave three reasons to back his claim. The reasons were that there was no inventory taken of the materials at hand; that the IEC did not receive the fund it programme and; that since it required a 100% payment, it was inconceivable for IEC to place an order without the necessary fund.
He however stated that Mr. Njie said all these to put up an excuse, maintaining that Mr. Njie had indeed ordered him to place the order for the election materials from Code Incorporated.
He said at the time Code informed the IEC that they had already dispatched a container laden with the materials from Belgium but that Mr. Njie insisted that he (the accused) should tell him how he got the authority to which, he added, his reply was that it was a verbal instruction.
Hearing continues on 31st July 2007.