Monday, December 4

BsAC’s ex-finance director admits malpractices

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Following the establishment of the Local Government Commission of Inquiry (LGCI), the name of Lamin Suso surfaced a number of times during the testimonies of various witnesses.

Mr Suso and his subordinates at the finance unit of the Basse Area Council are under intense scrutiny by the commission concerning alleged financial malpractices.

The Internal Audit Directorate conducted a system audit on the Basse Area Council and uncovered that members of the finance unit of the council jointly withdrew more than 50 million dalasis, which are yet to be accounted for.

The auditors noted the withdrawal of D220,000 from the ward development accounts of 3 wards. Lamin Suso explained the withdrawals from the ward accounts. He stated that CEO Ousman Touray and Councillor Omar Garry withdrew D75,000 from the Baja Kunda Ward Development Account; CEO Ousman Touray and former Vice Chairman Youba Jawara withdrew D100,000 from the Sabi Development Ward Account, and CEO Ousman Touray and Councillor Ousainou Janneh withdrew D45,000 from the Gambisara Development Ward Account.

Witness Suso said he participated in the withdrawal but he was not a signatory. He admitted that none of the withdrawals “followed due process”.

He also stated that the monies were taken because the council lacked revenue to fund its activities. Though the withdrawals were unlawful, he stated, it was an “internal arrangement”.

The auditors said unauthorised withdrawals of such nature had the potential of being diverted for personal use. The witness couldn’t provide any evidence to prove that the monies were used to fund council activities.

Controversially, the witness claimed the monies were refunded. On how the refund was made, he said D75,000 taken from Bajakunda Ward Account was later given to the ward councillor Omar Garry in cash.

For the D100,000 taken from the Sabi Ward Account, the witness said a cheque was issued in the name of Kaddijatou Jallow. Asked who this Kaddijatou Jallow was, the witness said Kaddijatou is a resident of Basse and a businesswoman. For Gambisara Ward, the witness said the money was given to the ward councillor.

“Will you consider this a refund?” Deputy Lead Counsel Patrick Gomez asked. “No,” the witness said.

“So, when the auditor said there was no evidence of refund. Do you agree?” Gomez asked.

The witness, Mr Suso, maintained his position that the monies were refunded. However, following tough questions from the deputy lead counsel, Suso agreed that the auditors were right in saying that “there is no evidence of refund”.

Mr Suso said the practice of Basse Area Council taking loans from individuals and later repaying was not new and had been happening.

Quizzed on the procedures for obtaining loans, he said it starts from a document sent to the general council and later to the ministry responsible for local government for approval.

On why the Basse Area Council didn’t follow the due process to obtain loans, he said: “If we follow the normal procedure, we will not get what we want.”