Monday, December 4

Inside Basse Area Council’s 4 Million Dalasi Borehole Project

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By MakutuManneh

Ousman Touray, the former CEO of Basse Area Council has given evidence regarding the Council’s 7 borehole projects saying the project was single-sourced to one Jariga Camara.

The auditors from the Directorate of Internal Audit discovered that the Basse Area Council entered a Three Million Four Hundred and Twenty-One Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty Dalasi (D3, 421,740) contract with one Jariga Camara to drill seven (7) boreholes. The Area Council made full payment of the contract sum to the company. The auditors noted that after making the full payment, the Area Council went ahead to perform some of the obligations that were supposed to be performed by the company.

“Was it subjected to bidding?”  Counsel Patrick Gomez asked.

“No,” OusmanTouray answered.

“Who met with Jariga?” Counsel Gomez asked.

“Myself, the Finance Director, the Chairman, the Planner & Engineer,” the former CEO answered.

“So you guys met the company and decided to award the contract,” Gomez asked again.

“Yes,” Touray replied, adding that “We did not follow due process. There was no competition.”

At this point, Chairperson Jainaba Bah cited a report where former Chairman Foday Danjo was quoted saying the projects were funded by monies collected by Basse Area Council revenue collectors.

“It is not correct. These projects were funded through the 15 Million Dalasi loan we took from the banks,” former CEO Touray said.

When Deputy Lead Counsel Patrick Gomez asked the witness how much was paid to Jariga Camara, the witness said Jariga Camara was paid 3.4 Million Dalasi. Counsel Gomez informed the witness that the GPPA report indicated that Jariga Camara was not registered. Also, the GPPA report stated that there was no receipt attached and the procurement was above the threshold of single sourcing.

“How do you determine his [Jariga Camara’s] qualification?” Gomez asked.

“There was no requirement for qualification,” the witness said.

“How do you determine that 4 Million was the right price?” Counsel Gomez asked.

“It depends on the water level of the communities,” the witness said.

Deputy Lead Counsel Gomez said the cost of each borehole was about Five Hundred Thousand Dalasi (D500, 000).

“That’s on the high side,” the former CEO said.

“It’s because you did not follow the rules. If the procurement was subjected to competition, there would have been value for money,” Patrick Gomez said.

“Yes,” the witness replied.

“Will it be correct to say the Four Hundred Thousand Dalasi (D400, 000) was too much?” Chairperson Jainaba Bah asked.

“Yes,” the witness answered.

Another issue discussed concerned the illegal payment of trekking allowance to revenue collectors. The auditors flagged it saying it was unlawful payment. The witness said he came to know about it in 2022 when some revenue collectors came to him and informed him about it. Former CEO Touray said the revenue collectors used to pay themselves five hundred dalasi (D500) and above as trekking allowance from the revenue they collected. Touray said when he knew about it, he gave a directive for it to stop and it stopped.

Regarding the Internal Audit Unit, the auditors noted that the Basse Area Council has an internal audit unit, but the unit was almost rendered redundant because the Area Council was conducting procurement activities without passing through the Unit. The witness said the Internal Audit Unit was established in 2021 wherein a revenue collector was deployed to run that unit. On the importance of the Unit, the witness said it is to ensure that the funds of the council are judiciously utilised and to ensure that there is compliance with the rules at all times.  The witness added that the Unit serves as an internal control means to ensure disbursement and payments are checked before they are finalised. Also, the Unit ensures that there is no loss of Council’s funds through theft or fraud and ensures that the funds are put in the right place.

“Why was this not followed?” Counsel Patrick Gomez asked.

“Not all vouchers went to the Internal Auditor,” the witness said.

“Most of the vouchers did not pass through the Internal Audit,” the Counsel said.

“I agree with you,” the witness replied.

“You were signing cheques without ensuring that the vouchers pass through the Internal Auditor,” Patrick Gomez said.

“I have not been doing that in some instances,” the witness said.

“In most instances – almost 90% of the cheques did not pass through the Internal Auditor,” Gomez said.

“I agree with you,” the witness answered.

The witness was shown vouchers and after looking into them, he said those vouchers did not pass through the Internal Audit Unit.

“All of them did not pass through the Internal Audit Unit,” the witness said.

“And you signed the vouchers without ensuring that they were approved,” Counsel Gomez said.

“Yes,” the witness answered.

The witness said as the CEO he was responsible for the things that happened.

The Basse Area Council awarded a construction contract to Alkamba Stores for construction before obtaining approval from the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA).  The auditors noted that the contract was awarded to Alkamba Stores, which had the highest bid.

The auditors also noted that the Basse Area Council awarded contracts to non-registered businesses. By law, every business must register with GPPA before getting contracts for public procurement engagements. The Commission noted like the GPPA officials that the Basse Area Council has been awarding contracts to business entities and companies that have not registered with the Gambia Public Procurement Authority.

The auditors noted that the Basse Area Council awarded contracts to companies for six (6) months, but they were delayed. The witness said the delay was because the Basse Area Council did not pay the contractors on time. Ex-CEO Touray said the Council secured a 15 Million Dalasi loan from the banks to implement 4 projects. The projects were: SarreBojo – Sara Mansa road for 2.9 Million Dalasi, Samba Lolo Bridge for 4 Million Dalasi, Songkunda Bridge for 4.8 Million Dalasi and Baja Kunda Bridge for 3.9 Million Dalasi.

The Local Government Commission of Inquiry is conducting a full and impartial investigation into the local government councils to enhance transparency and accountability. The Commission is conducting a holistic and fair review of the financial and administrative operations of the councils.