Fatoumatta M. Saho testified on Monday and Tuesday before the Commission. She said that they (finance department) knew she would have stopped them. Her testimony, which dragged on from Monday to Tuesday, was mainly centred on her work and other financial activities of the Basse Area Council.
She testified that the Basse Area Council had a very big financial problem, adding that “there is a weakness in the revenue collection mechanism” because they were hampered by mobility.
“There is no reason for Basse Area Council to be bankrupt to the extent of not being able to pay salary,” she told Commissioners.
She testified that the finance unit at the Basse Area Council used to bypass her office, and she was not, therefore, aware of most of the financial transactions conducted.
At this point, Chairperson Jainaba Bah informed the witness that her role is specified under Section 26 of the Local Government Finance and Audit Act 2004, which provides that “every Council shall establish an Internal Audit Unit”.
She further cited the act, saying: “The head of the Internal Audit Unit shall prepare and submit to the Council correct audit reports and forward a copy of each to the Local Government Accounts Committee, the Auditor General and the Minister responsible for local government at the time.”
Later in her testimony, she also explained that she was the only one in her unit (internal audit), adding that she did not have a support staff.
Furthermore, she stated that she was a member of the Audit and Finance Committee of the council. She said the members of the committee were Councillor Omar Garry (chairperson), Councilor Sanna Drammeh, Mariama Trawally and herself. She testified that the only time the committee met was when there were problems in the council that needed to be investigated.
Also, Madam Saho revealed to the Commission that Finance Director Lamin Suso told her that she did not have the capacity to stop them.
Basse Area Council Finance Director Lamin Suso has been accused by various witnesses at the Commission of taking physical cash from revenue collectors amounting to a whopping D118,750, although established regulations and policies state that revenue collectors are supposed to deposit revenue collected to the bank. The purported sum is still unaccounted for.
Relaying what had transpired leading to such utterances by Mr Lamin Suso, Madam Saho said she informed the Finance Director about certain findings, but the latter responded to her in an “impolite” manner.
“What did he [Finance Director Lamin Suso] say?” Lawyer Patrick Gomez asked.
“He said, Fatou Saho, you don’t have any capacity to stop us,” the witness answered.
She told the Commission that she was offended by the response of the Finance Director and opted to resign, but she was consoled by CEO Ousman Touray to be calm.
“What we saw was evidence of fraud,” Lawyer Patrick Gomez said.
“Yes,” the witness replied.
Chairperson Jainaba Bah asked the witness whether it was correct to say that she was redeployed from revenue collector to internal auditor to enable them perpetrate their things, because they knew she lacked the knowledge and experience to run the office of internal auditor.
The witness agreed with the Chairperson Bah.