(JollofNews) – Following a view of the online video of the Sitting of Commission of Inquiry into the Financial Dealings of the Former President Jammeh, this letter is spurred by, in particular, the session with the former director general of Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation (SSHFC), Edward Graham.
I make this analysis referencing facts delivered by the Commission and validated by Mr. Graham. In this vein, allow me to begin my letter with these questions:
- What is the Provident Fund, or was it Provident FRAUD?
- What was the intent of creating the Fund?
- Who was supposed to be the beneficiary of the Fund?
- What games were played with the Fund
- Who really benefited from the Fund or FRAUD
- Conclusively, what really happen; if a sham is an understatement?
The aim of this “letter” is to shed light on what transpired at SSHFC vis-a-vis the Provident fund, and my heart bleeds as I give this narrative.
Firstly, what is a Provident fund? According to Investopedia Academy, “A provident fund is a form of social safety net into which workers must contribute a portion of their salaries and employers must contribute on behalf of their workers. The money in the fund is then paid out to retirees or in some cases to the disabled who cannot work.”
The SSHFC provident fund was an employee retirement fund, a creative financing scheme that is no different in principle from 401K retirement package that employers are mandated by law to offer their employees in the United States. Other civilized countries around the world may call it different names but in principle serves the same purpose of providing for a retirement package; a social security for employees. As a strategic financing scheme, if properly managed, the fund can guarantee a respite for retirees. A direct quote from the mantra of SSHFC reads:
“The social security and housing finance corporation assures the Gambia populace a guaranteed social security future.” With the findings of the Commission of Inquiries, you can say with 100% certainty that this security is no more, as Yaya Jammeh has deep his hands in it just because he could, sending many generations’ retirement security into flames/bankrupt. Show me a person who does not understand the magnitude of this action, and I will show you a sycophant or a plain ignoramus.
Secondly, what was the intent to create the Provident Fund? SSHFC was created as an Act of Parliament in 1981 with the mandate to provide social protection and shelter for Gambians. Separate from this mandate, the corporation remains an active partner in national development. The corporation prides itself with strong participation in key sectors of the national economy; health, education, agriculture and tourism etc. hence this is its mission.
Mr. Graham supported this by elucidating with numeracy the various benefits derived from the activities of SSHFC. He was not happy that the commission only wanted to deal with the ugly side of SSHFC as it may be relevant to the Provident Fund. One of the panelist reminded Mr. Graham that they were not being judgmental but on a fact finding mission. To SSHFC’s credit, thank you for being financially creative but the fact remains.
And one of the facts here states as the mission statement of SSHFC: “The corporate mission is to provide adequate social protection for workers, facilitate social shelter delivery on a sustainable basis and invest funds of the Corporation to achieve optimum returns possible and contribute meaningfully towards the socio-economic development of the Gambia.”
Given the most recent revelations discerned form the witness statements of Mr. Graham with documentary evidence, large sums of money were removed from the fund in the name of loans to Yaya Jammeh; with no intent to pay back. Without a question, this can now be qualified as a FRAUD of the monumental proportion. Gambians were taken for a fool and for the longest ride ever.
Nowhere in history can we find a fraud scheme paralleling such mass fraudulence visited on us by a monster of despicable character, call Yaya Jammeh, and his enablers. Anyone who fails to grasp the implications this act by Yaya Jammeh, has their head buried in the sand. Here is a man who was famous for leveling “economic crimes” against innocent people. Now, revelations of the commission have unmasked the hypocrisy of Yaya Jammeh.
Who was supposed to be beneficiaries of the Fund? Ordinary employees, low paying and hard working Gambian workers contributing to the fund were supposed to be the beneficiaries of the provident fund. My employer for example, in addition to my monthly contribution, marched my contribution for a healthy monthly deposit in the fund.
While many contributed to the fund in hopes of one day cashing in for a retirement income, Yaya Jammeh was busy looting the fund to satisfy, in the words of former Secretary General, Njogu Bah, a large appetite for money. I am not sure if Yaya Jammeh was the only one who had a large appetite for money. Maybe he does, but we can equally call others having a large appetite to dishonorably enabling that which they call a large appetite. I am not sure if those enablers of Jammeh can cast aspersions on Jammeh. Anyway that is a story for another time.
Now it is clear that Yaya Jammeh has mortgaged my future right along with the future of the next generations for a long time as the trickledown effect of his fraudulent act sink deep as a reality. I do not foresee how the fund can be saved without an immediate injection of money in the form of a government bailout. Don’t get your hopes high! This now warrants confiscating anything owned by Yaya Jammeh. Government should seek international cooperation to go after Yaya Jammeh’s indentified loot anywhere in the world to repay the provident fund.
It comes not as a surprise to those of you who knew Yaya Jammeh from secondary school to the army that indeed Yaya Jammeh had the most defective moral compass unparalleled anywhere in the world. Many of you warned your commanders about the undisciplined character of Jammeh but the commanders turned a deaf ear and dismissed him as a buffoon that eventually ballooned to a monster. Gambia will never forget him. The commanders may very well be guilty of complacency (a Gambian disease) a cure for which we are yet to discover.
What games were played with the Fund? The whole Fund was a game for Jammeh and it is unfortunate some people by default played right along. The loot was masqueraded as a loan which now we know was a sham of the highest order. Yaya Jammeh withdrew millions from the fund to buy an aircraft; imagine for his personal use! Jammeh took millions from the fund to dish out cash gifts. The Fund was a piggy bank that satiated Jammeh’s appetite for play money. This now brings to mind the Utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham.
“The main idea is that the highest principle of morality, be it personal or political morality is to maximize the general welfare where the collective happiness weighs greater than the overall balance of pain, in a phrase, maximizes utility.” Bentham’s line of reasoning is that we are all governed by pain and pleasure as our sovereign masters, so any moral system has to take account of them. This in essence leads to the principle for the greatest good for the greatest number. Yaya Jammeh’s leadership was the total antithesis of the utilitarian principle but rather his was the epitome of egoism of the typed unparallels even by that of the ten most brutal dictators since the dawn of time. What a dichotomy that such a character could have come from a serene society such as our home called The Gambia or SeneGambia for that matter.
Yaya’s happiness was greater than in its totality the happiness of the Provident Fund contributors. The incredulity of this thought borders on inhumanity. What a game! The game further compounded when the enablers of Jammeh were at the center of power; sitting on the SSHFC board. Was Amadou Samba once a board chair of the corporation? If the answer is in the affirmative, need I say more?
So if we are going to liken this to a game of basket ball, the board chair would pass the ball furnishing Jammeh with the information that SSHFC is sitting on a big pile of liquidity. Jammeh then imagines oh! I need an aircraft. Passing the ball back, he tells the board chair I need $3.4 million, where do you think I can get this money from? Oh! No problem your Excellency, SSHFC is super liquid we can dish out a loan without a problem. Board chair passes the ball (information) to Managing Director that His Excellency needs money for state air craft. Bring the proposal to the board says the board chair, and we will put our stamp on it. So finally Jammeh dunks a three pointers by securing a score in the tune of $millions. So this is how the ball is passed around in every case where Jammeh uses enablers to score big in looting the life savings of ordinary and hard working Gambians. Where did we go wrong?
So now you know who really benefited from the Fund or should I now say the FRAUD. We have just seen the tip of the iceberg. As the movie at the commission unravels, brace up for the shocker of a life time. Conclusively, a page is now being written in the annals of Gambia’s history, a page that will predictably remain in our psyche for generations to come.
One man, one man of simple origins, one man of indiscipline character, one man with uncontrollable appetite for money, women, and power, one man devoid of sophistication (he tried very hard but sophistication eluded him), one man who deluded himself that marry a world class escort (I do not want to use the P word) was better than any decent home girl, and one man who brought so much disrepute to the Gambia on the global stage, has left an indelible mark on our lives as a people who may not be able to cash in our retirement accounts. So, many of us will have to work well into the golden years, that is if we manage to be an out layer of the stark statistics of the life expectancy of the Gambia . This is the price we paid elevating such a man to the helm of power.
I remain in consternation that there remain persons in this country who will still sing the praises of Jammeh. I remain amazed that certain characters with a measure of intelligence would still want to associate themselves with Yaya Jammeh. Have these people really seen Yaya for what he is worth? Have they seen Yaya for the destructions he has brought to bear on the lives of ordinary Gambians? Yaya has wreaked havoc on a people for two decades and even when the facts are now glaringly in our eyes, sentimentality seems to have overcome our sensibilities blasting us into the stratosphere of denial for lack of a better word. How sad! Yaya Jammeh must be rejected in totality. Yaya victimized a nation, and not just one home but the whole nation of Gambia. Yaya’s crime is against humanity, and there he must be judge accordingly.
So for the above reasons, I wish to forward to your attention Sir, that with immediate effect, I no longer wish to contribute to the Provident Fund. I want to now create my own social security, and create my own savings for my retirement. Oh! By the way my coworkers are also considering writing to you for the same purpose as they wish to now minimize their loses by pulling out of the Provident Fund or FRAUD which any word you wish to use, the end result remains the same a sham; we were fooled for SSHFC Provident Fund, albeit well intended, was a FRAUD.
The author is the CEO of MaXXis Consulting