By Mama A. Touray
Sorrie Silla, a Basse Area Council (BsAC) Revenue Collector in his testimony before the Local Government Commission of Inquiry admitted giving Lamin Susso the Finance Director of Basse Area Council D16,250 of council funds.
Lamin Susso was accused of receiving council money worth D118,750 from revenue collectors of the Basse Area Council. Sorrie Sillah who was the second revenue collector to give his testimony to the LG Commission of Inquiry admitted giving Finance Director Lamin Susso D16,250 after his collection from Kulari URR in 2021.
Collector Sillah said Finance Director Lamin Suso demanded the money from him, when asked how it happened, he explained that Director Suso instructed him to do license collection with Soma Jallow at Kulari and gave them his vehicle to use for the collection..
“Director Suso informed us to go for collection and he said that we should hand over the money to him,” Sillah said.
Sillah further explained that after the collection, he came back to the Council with his junior, Soma Jallow. Upon arrival, he said they proceeded to the office of Finance Director Suso to inform him of their return from the collection.
“I surrendered the money to him. The Director took the money from Soma Jallow,” the witness said.
Sillah testified that a revenue collector is required to deposit funds collected into the respective accounts of the council. He added that it was not proper to give a person or an official of the council cash without depositing it in the bank.
He further testified that it is not appropriate for an official of the council to demand money from revenue collectors. He said in case they close late and the banks are closed, the collector is required to make the deposit the following day.
Sillah said he was not the one who handed money to Director Suso, adding that it was Soma Jallow who did.
Sillah told the commission that after Soma Jallow informed him that Director Suso took money from her, he (Sorrie) confronted Director Suso who in turn gave him a paper indicating that he received the money.
When asked why he did not deposit the money after collection before coming to the council, the witness said the best option was to go straight to the bank and do the depositing of the funds. He added that on this particular day, he first went to the area council and did not go to the bank.
“Normally, after collection, we go straight to the council, and then from the council, we go to the bank. You can’t go to the bank directly,” Sillah said.
But when pressed about the accuracy of this statement, the witness said he was misunderstood adding that a revenue collector can directly go to the bank and do the deposit without passing through the council.
He was asked what happened after he confronted Lamin Suso to refund the money, he said Suso acknowledged receipt of the cash from Soma Jallow and wrote a note on a sheet of paper regarding it.
“I met Director Suso at his office and he asked me to hand over the money to him. I also informed Soma Jallow but I did not ask her to give Director Suso the money,” the witness said.
Counsel Gomez asked “Why did you go to Lamin Suso? And Sillah responded, “I went there to inform him that we were around”.
Gomez further asked Sillah if he went to Susso’s office alone and he said “Yes, I went there alone and Soma Jallow was not with me inside the office”.
“What were you doing at the office alone?” Gomez asked again and Sillah responded that he went there to inform him
“Why should you inform Director Suso that you were around? Was that relevant?” Lawyer Gomez asked.
“It is relevant because he was the one who asked us to go to the field and do the collection on that day,” Sillah answered.
The witness restated his admission that it was wrong to give the Finance Director cash. He said the correct procedure was to deposit the funds into the council account.
“Why are you telling us that you confronted the Director when you know everything that was happening?” Lawyer Gomez asked.
“I confronted him,” Sillah said, adding “I expect Soma to wait for me.”
“You are pretending that as if you were away,” Lawyer Gomez said.
“It happened regrettably,” Sillah answered.
He testified that he never desired to give the Finance Director the money because he knew it was wrong.
“You left your junior outside and you went into the office of the Finance Director. Yet, you cannot provide us an explanation as to why you did that,” Lawyer Gomez said.
“That was the first time it happened,” Sillah said.
Lawyer Gomez said the mode of operation, which eventually became a tradition at the Basse Area Council, is that revenue collectors would collect and make payments directly to LaminSusso the Finance Director.
“It was the first time for me,” the witness said.
Sillah added: “I knew the right thing was to deposit the money after collection.”
The witness said he was disappointed in the Finance Director saying “What he did kill my spirit because it was the taxpayers’ money.”
Sorrie Sillah’s career as a revenue collector began in 2003 and his main area of collection is rates and licenses. And he collects rates from the Alkalos, who in turn collect it from the villagers.
The witness said in 2021 he was a licensed collector in WuliEast, Wuli West, and Sandu Districts. In addition, he said he was also a rates collector at Kantora.