Monday, December 4

BsAC procurement clerk talks on CEO, finance director interference

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Mr Muhammed Jawneh, the witness, testified that he has been complaining about it frequently. His letter addressed to the CEO, wherein he complained about the interference in his work, was tendered and admitted into the records, and marked as an exhibit.

On the maintenance of vehicles, the witness said he was not aware of those transactions but explained that the CEO was the one doing it. “The CEO said he has a person in Kombo who does the maintenance on the vehicles. I don’t know anything about it,” he said.

For stationeries, the witness said the Basse Area Council used to buy from one lady trading as Next Level Stationery. Again, in 2021, the Area Council procured motorcycles. The witness said it was directed by the CEO and the Director of Finance. “They said we didn’t have money and they identified someone to supply us until we had money to pay them,” the witness said.

Per evidence before the Commission’s desk, in June 2021, the council purchased a smart television. The witness informed commissioners that the chairman of the area council, the CEO and the Finance Director said the council should buy a smart television and air conditioner for the council’s chambers.

The witness testified that he was not aware of the procurement of the generator for the Finance Director’s residence. Many other transactions were highlighted to the witness to which he repeatedly answered he was not aware.

“During the public hearings of this Commission, we were able to learn that some of things that were done and taken for granted were not correct,” the witness said.

“You are saying you don’t take part in most of these transactions,” Lawyer Gomez asked, and the witness didn’t hesitate but agreed.

“But even those you participated did not follow the procurement rules,” Lawyer Gomez said.

He also agreed as well.

The witness said he was not signing the documents for procurements, arguing it was an oversight on his part. Lawyer Gomez disagreed with his assertion that, that was an oversight. The Lawyer said the witness had already obtained necessary training on procurement.

“How procurement is conducted in the council is not conducted by the procurement unit. This is why there are so many lapses,” the witness said.

The lawyer said that does not vindicate the witness because even the procurement transactions he conducted did not follow due process, adding there was a blatant disregard for procurement rules.

Furthermore, the witness said the Basse Area Council would give contracts before obtaining approval from GPPA: “You have to obtain GPPA approval first before awarding the contract. But this was not happening.”

The witness testified that contracts at the Basse Area Council used to be awarded to contractors before the bid opening. He elaborated saying the bid opening and other process were just processes, but the reality remained that they awarded contracts before engaging in those processes.

The Commission noted that the witness withdrew huge amounts from the councils’ different accounts. The witness admitted that he made a total withdrawal of over 1.5 million dalasis.

Chairperson Jainaba Bah informed the witness that he, on 16 September 2020, withdrew over 1.2 million dalasis from the Basse Area Council’s Trust Bank Account

The witness said cheques were issued in his name by the then-CEO Ousman Touray and the then-Finance Director Babucarr Kanteh. “Then I don’t know the financial implication for doing that. They [ex-CEO Ousman Touray and ex-Finance Director Babucar Kanteh] were the ones sending me to do that,” he testified.

The chairperson read some of the transactions the witness made in relation to the council’s accounts. The witness repeated that the cheques were issued in his name, and he withdrew and handed over the cash to the former CEO and former Finance Director.

“I should not make withdrawal from the Basse Area Council account. This was due to lack of knowledge. I did not know the implication at the time,” the witness said.

The witness said he felt that since the CEO and the Finance Director were his bosses he should take instructions from them, and at the time, he did not know the financial implications. Lawyer Patrick Gomez countered that the excuse by the witness was incomprehensible because he, at the time, had obtained certain qualifications from courses he attended. But the witness kept firm on his claim that he did not know.

The witness said that after the system audit on the council, he did not carry out any withdrawals from the council’s account, further claiming that he didn’t have a cordial relationship with the Finance Director. He explained that he used to have differences with the Finance Director regarding their opinions about projects.

Moreover, he was allegedly told by ex-Finance Director Babucar Kanteh that he should not have divulged the full information to the auditors during the system audit by the internal audit. He asserted being told by Mr Kanteh that he should have kept the information to himself.

The witness could not provide explanation over how the monies he had been withdrawing were spent, as he repeatedly admitted doing the withdrawals but said the monies were handed to the two ex-bosses (CEO and Finance Director).