Wednesday, December 6

BsAC’s ex-CEO appears before Local Gov’t Commission

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His testimony began on Monday afternoon following the completion of the testimony of Lamin Suso, ex-finance director of Basse Area Council (BsAC) earlier that very day.

Mr Touray, the former CEO, is a trained teacher with PTC certificate from the Gambia College, who had also served as principal at Changen Basic Cycle School from 2000 to 2002 and at Arrangellen Basic Cycle School from 2005 to 2006.

Touray also served as vice principal at Siffoe Senior Secondary School from 2008 to 2009 before he eventually became the cluster monitor in Region 2, covering Gunjur Cluster from 2009 to 2010. From January 2012 to June 2019 he was redeployed as a senior budget officer at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE). 

He told the Commission he holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a master’s degree in public administration, and he also has a number of certificates relating to public administration from various universities abroad.

At this point of hearing, it was noted that Ousman Touray wrote two witness statements, dated 21 May and 8 September 2023 respectively. They were both tendered as evidence and admitted into records. 

Mr Ousman Touray proceeded with his testimony, telling the Commission he became the CEO of the Basse Area Council in July 2019. He explained he saw the advertisement in the newspapers, applied and then he was interviewed, which he passed. 

Witness Touray was asked whether he had his appointment letter with him, which he affirmed. He handed the said letter to the counsels, and it was later tendered and admitted into evidence. 

The witness was quizzed on how familiar he was with the various laws, such as the Acts and regulations governing administration and public finance, especially in the area of local governance. 

He displayed an appreciable level of understanding of some of them. He made reference to Financial Manual, which outlines that the CEO is responsible for all the expenditures of the council, and Local Government Finance and Audit Act, which provides for his duties as CEO. 

Witness Touray also said that the functions of the CEO are detailed in section 43 of the Local Government Act, furthering that he was responsible for the management of the council and was answerable to the General Council. 

He said he supervised, monitored and coordinated the activities of the different units of the council to ensure there was accountability and transparency in the councils.

He testified that the two units of the Basse Area Council were the Planning Unit and Finance Unit. He stated that the Planning Unit did not have a director because the person overseeing that office did not meet the qualification and was, therefore, appointed as planner and engineer. 

The witness also said the decision to appoint Yaya T.B. Ceesay as a planner and engineer although he did not meet the qualification to head the planning unit was made by the Local Government Service Commission.

“Is there any reason why the position was not re-advertised?” Lead Counsel Yakar Cox asked.

The witness testified that there was no reason.

The witness told commissioners that there was a huge capacity gap at the finance unit of the council, saying they were unable to prepare financial statements and were not doing bank reconciliation.

At this juncture, the witness recalled that the director of finance, Lamin Suso, was not able to produce financial statement. He recounted that Lamin Suso suggested to him to contract someone outside (not working at the council) to prepare the financial statement. He stated that Suso recommended a former staff from the Accountant General’s Department.

Witness Touray also recounted that sometime in 2022, the matter was reported to the General Council and the Establishment Committee and a decision was reached. He added that he conveyed the decision to the Ministry of Local Government himself.He further testified that Lamin Suso would give the excuse that the IFMIS System had a problem, and this was why he was unable to prepare monthly reports and financial statements.

“IFMIS is efficient and reliable,” Touray told commissioners as he debunked what was allegedly said by ex-finance director Lamin Suso.

Mr Touray said request for financial statements were made from the Finance Unit but Lamin Suso could not provide them with financial statements. He stated that the Accountant General’s Department informed them that the IFMIS System was good and any problem they faced was an issue of capacity gap.

The witness said the members of the Finance Unit were trained on how to use the IFMIS System, adding that there wouldn’t be any genuine excuse for not being able to use it.

Witness Touray claimed that he reported to the General Council around late 2022 that the finance director lacked capacity. He said he also wrote a letter to the chairman of the council, telling him that the finance director lacked capacity.

Moreover, the witness explained that the IFMIS is a self-generating system, provided the information was entered into the system. He said the Finance Unit failed to input all transactions, giving space for backlogs of transactions not captured in the system. 

“The necessary information is not available in the IFMIS System because they do not input it. We cannot give incomplete information to the council. Some of the vouchers are missing,” he stated.

However, he emphasised the importance of financial statements, which he said are essential to keep the General Council abreast on the financial status of the council and help in terms of planning.

The witness also affirmed before commissioners that from 2021 to 2023 they have been doing transactions outside the IFMIS System.

Mr Touray’s testimony continues.