Former Minister Al-Gharras talks to “Al-Youm 24” about his follow-up in the case of wasting public funds – Al-Youm 24

The Rabat Court of Appeal began examining a case related to the former Minister of Vocational Training, Mohamed El-Gharass (who resigned from the Popular Movement Party). Al-Akhbar newspaper reported, on Friday, that 18 people with him are being prosecuted on charges related to wasting public funds.

The Attorney General of this court referred Al-Gharras, along with 18 defendants, including contractors, company owners, employees, and former consultants during the previous term, to an investigating judge in the fifth chamber in charge of money crimes, and he decided, after preliminary hearing from them, to pursue them all in case they are released.

The former minister, who is subject to judicial investigation in a case related to his exercise of the position of head of the Ben Mansour group (November 2018 – September 2021), spoke to “Al-Youm 24”, providing a comprehensive explanation of his file.

Al-Gharras considers his appearance before the Rabat Court “a normal procedure to investigate some of the allegations directed against me, the former head of the Ben Mansour group, by Miloud Chalikh (the National Rally of Independents Party), the current head of the Ben Mansour group.”

The current president of this group, according to Al-Gharras, has an old rivalry between them: “I had previously been the reason behind his removal from its presidency and his complete stripping of its membership pursuant to a judicial ruling issued against him in 2015 due to his criminal record.”

The former minister confirms that there was “no waste or embezzlement, neither by me nor by any official in Al-Jamagha during my presidency.” Pointing out that “the person who filed this lawsuit against me as a settlement of an account is the one who is supposed to be subject to trial for squandering public funds and missing out on significant amounts of the group’s revenues, and not the other way around.”

From the market…the problem began

The story began, according to Al-Gharras’ narration, when he initiated the process of the group’s ownership of the real estate base of the weekly market, and “I was surprised that it was not originally part of its property, despite its exploitation of it.” I proposed to the council to establish a framework for the Sunday market rental deals that were announced every year. The Council agreed to launch a three-year exploitation deal, the goal of which was – in accordance with good governance procedures – to avoid any manipulation, maneuvers, or illegal negotiations due to the announcement of the deal every year.”

Al-Gharas notes that “certain companies were getting the exploitation deal every year, and since the advertisements were published in unknown and poorly circulated newspapers, they worked to publish the announcement of the deal in the widely circulated national newspapers that are known to contain advertisements for public deals. This resulted in an additional income exceeding 118 million for each year of exploitation, and the deal was acquired by a company that had never previously exploited this market.” The speaker believes that “the annual income for the same market and in its previous form has increased from 0.4175,000 dirhams in 2018 to 5,356,000.00 dirhams in 2019. For him, “it is clear that the value of exploiting that market is much more expensive than what the group was extracting, and that the difference may have gone to other parties.” “.

According to the data prepared by Al-Gharas for review by the “Al-Youm 24” journalist, from the year 2016 to 2018 there was an annual increase in rental income at a rate of only about 5,000 dirhams, and from the year 2018 to 2019 an increase of more than 118 million centimes as additional income for the community every year at the same time. The market has the same facilities and space.” However, according to him, “the situation will return to its previous state after the return of the criminal record holder Miloud Al-Shalikh to the presidency of the Ben Mansour group, who had previously been removed from its presidency and stripped of its membership, as he was rented for only 423 million centimes in the year 2022, that is, a difference of 112 million centimes in less than a year.” 2019, when the same market was rented for 535 million centimes for the year. Al-Gharras sees this contraction as a “waste of public money.”

Then he adds, stressing: “We are supposed to notice an increase in the rental price for the Sunday Ould Jalloul market, which is considered one of the most important weekly markets in Morocco, and not a decrease in a huge amount that constitutes an important difference in the group’s income, especially since the person concerned, the current president, admits in his letter No. 1617 dated November 11, 2021: “Commercial activities in the weekly markets in the Kingdom have recovered and returned to their normal state.” While he refuses to answer a written question by three members of the Council regarding the revenues from the direct exploitation of market facilities.”

One of the actions attributed in the complaint of the current president of the Awlad Mansour group is that related to his failure to collect the weekly market rent.

This story, in turn, began with the Kenitra provincial authorities’ insistence on restarting the weekly market, close to Eid al-Adha for the year 2020. “The group actually took the necessary measures to implement the directives of the regional authority, but it received a correspondence from the exploiting company on August 4, 2020 requesting Postponing the opening date of the weekly market to August 30, justifying its request “by the preparations it must take to put in place the necessary precautionary measures and measures, as well as the fact that most markets are experiencing a recession that affects their profitability. It also asks us to find a way to compensate for the material damage that befell this company as a result of the temporary closure of the weekly market activity.” “

The group then received a letter from the governor of the Kenitra province on September 30, 2020, asking the head of the Ben Mansour community to issue a decision to reopen the market of one of Ouled Djelloul, starting on October 4 of that year.

The group has already begun preparations for this process. On October 15, 2020, according to Al-Gharras’ testimony, the group wrote to the exploiting company to warn it about the delay in paying the weekly market rental dues and the possibility of resorting to termination of the contract in the event of non-performance. The exploiting company had written to the group on August 19 to demand that it review the rental tax and compensate for the damage caused by the cessation of its activity due to the pandemic. As for Al-Gharras, as head of the group, he did everything in this regard.

Power… is a stone’s throw away

On January 6, 2021, a meeting will be held to consider the problem of this market, which was absent from the Local Communities Department in the Kenitra Prefecture and the Regional Treasury. “Al-Gharras says, “There was no possibility to determine the revised tax rate, as proven by my letter No. 299 dated February 17, 2021. And as all the minutes of the meetings show. The group was not able to make unilateral decisions given the exceptional circumstances dictated by the repercussions of the pandemic and the directives of the Minister of the Interior’s Circular No. 11252.

After additional correspondence, the first meeting of the Regional Committee was held on March 25, 2021, which determined the amount due to the group in the amount of 562,380,00 dirhams. Then, on June 1, 2021, the workers were contacted again to hold the meeting, which was scheduled to be held every three months. The committee met on June 21, 2021, and determined the rental fee due to the group in the amount of 830,180.00 dirhams.

For Al-Gharras, it is related to “delays that resulted in a time difference in paying market rental dues in exceptional circumstances and for reasons beyond the control of the group’s interests and not anything else.”

In his response, the former minister points out that Miloud Al-Shalikh, after he became president of the group, succeeding Al-Gharras, suffered the same problem with these meetings. In the minutes of the meeting held on November 22, 2021, led by Ben Mansour – based on the outcomes of the November 12, 2020 meeting – and bearing the signature of the current president (Signature No. 2 according to the order mentioned in the minutes of the meeting), it explicitly indicates that it is not possible to determine the rental rate and therefore that it is not possible to extract the dues on time. Because “…it was not possible to hold these meetings (i.e. the meetings of the regional committee charged with determining the market price) despite correspondence addressed to the labor interests in this regard…”, that is, during the period in which Al-Gharras was the head of the group.

Al-Gharras confirms that his group, during his presidency of it, had already paid the weekly market rental duties immediately after the meetings of the regional committee that were held in the presence of all the activities of the committee during my presidency of that group, as proven by copies of the exploited company’s checks drawn in the name of the regional treasury of Kenitra, and also confirmed by data. Payment to the Regional Treasury Nos. 321 and 657: Statement No. 321 in the amount of 562,380.00 dirhams, issued on March 29, 2021, based on the decisions of the minutes of the meeting of the Regional Committee held on March 25, 2021, and Statement No. 657, in the amount of 830,180,00 dirhams, issued on June 29, 2021, based on the decisions of the minutes. Meeting June 21, 2021.

A document, a phone number, tools… and a charge!

In the list of accusations against Al-Gharras, he acquired tools owned by the group. But he responds by saying that the schedule that was prepared and signed for this purpose by the group on the occasion of the handover of duties between me and the new president does not indicate the presence of any supplies in my possession.” Considering that “the truth is that I always put my personal tools and mechanisms in the service of the group during that period and not the other way around.”

Also, the complaint accuses Al-Gharras of continuing to use a phone number registered in the group’s property lists. However, the former minister says that “I do not know and have not used the phone number that is allegedly in my possession,” calling for “an inspection of the group’s headquarters to ensure the presence of the tools and the phone line that are the subject of the complaint.” I also have the right to demand that an experiment be conducted to find out who and when was using that phone line and to arrange responsibilities.”

Al-Gharass is also being pursued on charges related to issuing a bond for car repairs and granting compensation for moving outside the law. The former minister rejects these accusations: “There is absolutely no basis for the request to repair cars, and there are no transportation compensation granted outside the law to members and employees.

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