The former director of lands and survey who is now responsible for the administration and day-to-day activity of the ministry was the first witness of the commission that is set up to look into the activities and performances of the local councils.
As indicated that the councils are independent, PS Sanyang said the government provides subvention to the councils for the implementation of projects. He added that through the EU fund, they support the central government and councils by providing them with gardens, and boreholes, and building bridges for community development.
He stated that the project is acquired through the central government for the communities. In marathon questions and answers on the issue of monies, PS further explained that the Central Bank is responsible for releasing money to the council accounts and was purposely meant for the implementation of the project.
“The Ministry doesn’t have access to the funds. The ward communities design what they want and the department of community development will help them,” he said
Dwelling on the Councils’ budget, he revealed that the Ministry reviews the council budgets and endorses it, saying they as well advise the Ministry of Finance with regards to the budget. He told the Lead Counsel that his ministry also renders technical support to the councils through training in the areas of finance due to councils’ unavailability to provide financial statements.
Asked about the issues surrounding the Local Government Service Commission, he said the service commission is independent and that its role is to carry out the recruitment at the councils and conduct disciplinary actions and training. PS was quick to say the commission’s responsibility was compromised, noting that people were not chosen out of competency. He further affirmed that the minister was responsible for the appointment of the commissioners based on experience in financial matters, councils and legal.
In 2019, a letter was sent to the council to financially contribute to the service commission due to insufficient budget allocation for the service commission. He said: “They didn’t pay. The initial budget, about D500, 000 was allocated. The commissioners are not staff of the Ministry but they are paid monthly and they sit once every quarter.”
On the issue of opening a private Bank Account for the service commission, PS Sanyang explained that an account was opened at GT Bank, instead of the Central Bank which is responsible for all government accounts. He said that was made to enable councils to pay, citing that getting the money through the Central Bank could be delayed.
Counsel informed him that a letter was sent to the Accountant General on 16 April 2019 to request approval to open an outside account. It was also put to him that the letter for the opening of the account was sent to the bank on the same date as it was sent to the accountant general. He said that was meant to avoid any delay in the process.
According to the Counsel, on 5 May 2019, the Accountant General replied to the request which stated the opening of the account at the Central Bank. He said that could be a different case and he is not sure. He promised to make it available if such a request was made.
On matters of staff service letters that were sent in May 2019 and April 2019 but delayed reaching the service commission in June 2019. He said that could happen due to a non-sufficient attachment, delay in the movements of letters or minutes for the compliance of issues while reaffirming that the service commission doesn’t get into the operational matters. He said the service commission makes decisions independently on the available documents in their possession.
When shown a letter of Banjul City Council staff appointment for director of admin; appointment for the confirmation of a director of admin; and clarification over the appointment of confirmation of a director of admin, he admitted that since 2019 to date, there is only an acting director at the said council. When asked for how long one should act in a position, he said six months.
On the role of council inspectors, he explained they look for the procurement of councils. He further noted that the councils also have a contract committee. Lead Counsel told him that the Local Government Financial Act request the ministry to nominate two people who will sit on the contract committee, which he replied never happened.
It was put to the witness that the Mayors of Banjul and Kanifing received higher salaries compared to the chairpersons. PS Sanyang said this is informed by Councils’ revenue base. “We will study it because we will not advise them if their revenue cannot sustain it.”
On the issues of Sainabou Martin, he said the Council passing disciplinary measurements is illegal while narrating that complaint of fault against the staff association was reported by the major to the ministry. He said that KMC putting a council resolution to suspend the CEO was illegal.