By: Kebba AF Touray
The Mayor of KMC, Talib Ahmed Bensouda, has revealed that his-led council had worked tirelessly with the bank to recover additional funds from the unapproved land loan.
“Since the last press conference, an additional of D2.4 million has been successfully recovered by the bank from the fraudulent bank transaction of D12 million loan. The additional amount of D2.4 million has been returned to the Council’s Staff Welfare Association’s account and this brings the balance of the missing funds to D900,000,” Bensouda said last week during a press conference at his council
The press conference was meant to update the public on some council officials’ involvement in alleged fraudulent land loan. He made the disclosure after the conclusion Council’s General meeting on the 27th July 2021 filed a complaint against the officials with the fraud squad of the Gambia Police Force, regarding the issuance of the council’s guarantee without the approval of the council.
“We understand that some of these officials have been invited to the police and investigations are ongoing. We have confidence that the Gambia Police Force will conduct this investigation independently, diligently and without interference. We will notify you as we receive other updates and as previously reported in our last press briefing, the council recommended to the Local Government Service Commission, for the removal of office of these 5 individuals,” he said.
Mayor Bensouda further said whilst they await the decision of the Local Government Service Commission, the council resolved that the said officials be sent on leave and the council awaits the decision of the commission. He said on August 2nd, the council received communication from the Minister of Local Government stating that inspectors would be appointed to investigate matters on their report with the Ministry and Local Government Service Commission as well as the petition from the five (5) individual staff.
Bensouda explained that the Minister of Lands demanded the council to rescind its decision to send the staff on leave pending the outcome of the police investigation and the Local Government Service Commission.
“The council considered the Minister’s letter at its sittings of 2nd and 3rd of August. The council resolved to maintain its previous resolution except that the salaries of the said officials will continue to be paid to them in the interim,” he said.
He also said the council maintains that it is a matter within the powers and the prerogative of the council to send staff on leave in appropriate cases pending the investigations into their activities by the relevant body.
“We will continue to apply the law and follow due process. Accordingly, the council has responded to the Minister’s letter. My office received a further letter dated 3rd August 2021 from the Ministry setting out the areas of inspection,” he said.
Bensouda said the exchange of correspondence on the proposed inspection will be made available to the public, and that the Director of Administration and all management and staff have in any event been briefed, to give the inspectors all the necessary assistance and cooperation to carry out their mandate.
“The KMC operates in a transparent, legal and ethical manner and always welcomes inspection and scrutiny from the Ministry and members of the public and the press on any matter,” he said.
Bensouda also explained that inspection of local government provided in Section 150 of the Local Government Act is an important tool intended to foster transparent government at the local level.
“The council will do all it can to facilitate the work of the inspectors as provided for in the Local Government Act. All books’ records, facilities and personnel will be made available to the inspectors upon their request, in accordance with civilized and orderly procedures,” he remarked.
The mayor said they are aware that the CEO on the 3rd of August attempted to enter the council with the company of a TV crew. He said it’s an unfortunate event, stating that it is the duty of all staff in public sector employment to have due regard to code of conduct of public officials, to comport themselves with dignity and integrity accorded to their office.
“We expect that she will continue to respect the council’s resolution and to respect the terms of her leave until called upon. This is consistent with previous disciplinary cases,” he said.
Bensouda said they are aware of the press release from the Permanent Secretary of the Lands Ministry, which gives an ultimatum to the council.
“I believe that the laws of the land are clearly articulated and a process for handling matters of this nature are well articulated in the act. “I trust that these processes will be followed to completion. The people of KMC are tired of corruption, and we will do everything…to eradicate it,” he said.