The former finance director at Basse, Lamin Suso, claimed he pre-financed a series of activities at the Basse Area Council with his own money, which amounted to hundreds of thousands.
Testifying over the issue, Mr Touray claimed that pre-financing of council activities had been happening at the Basse Area Council before he assumed office, adding that when he was appointed as CEO in 2019, he observed it and put a stop to it in January 2020.
Also, he claimed that sometimes expenditures were done in his absence and he would review when he returned. “When I am not satisfied with the expenditure, I don’t sign the voucher,” he said.
He said he used to sign empty cheques without indicating any amount on them and it was what the then-director of finance used to take and make withdrawals. He added that the last time he left a signed blank cheque was in October 2021.
However, after he was pressed and cornered by Chairperson Jainaba Bah, the witness said his evidence was inaccurate. “I could not remember at any point in time that the director of finance pre-financing the activities of the Council,” Ousman Touray admitted.
He thus refuted the testimony of Lamin Suso and labelled them as inaccurate because he had no knowledge of when and where Lamin Suso pre-financed any of the council’s activities.
At one point, Commissioner Oreme E. Joiner intervened and told the witness: “Signing a blank cheque is like signing your death warrant.”
The witness agreed with Commissioner Joiner. Joiner further asked the witness whether that was prudent considering his years of service, but the witness said it was not. The witness admitted that he left 9 signed blank cheques with Lamin Suso.
“How influential was Lamin Suso over you?” Commissioner Joiner asked.
“I don’t have answers to this. Most of the time when he brings cheques to me and I sign it, it is only later that I realise that what I did was a risk,” Ousman Touray answered.
The witness proceeded to state that they used to borrow from businessmen to pay salary, but he was quick to add that there was a memo in 2021 forbidding the taking of loans from businessmen to pay salary. The 2021 Memo emphasised that “pre-financing has to stop with immediate effect”.
But after a tough question and answer session between him and Commissioner Joiner, he admitted that he flouted the memo, saying he misconstrued the memo which he personally prepared.
Again, Mr Touray explained he used to do weekly checks on the books of the council to understand the spendings made, but when Lamin Suso took over in February 2021, that was no longer possible because Lamin Suso didn’t provide the books. He attested that Suso’s predecessor brought the books to him on Fridays and reviewed them over the weekend.
“It was not possible to do that with Suso; it was difficult. You will request the books and he won’t provide you,” the ex-CEO said.