Friday, December 8

Witnesses’ testimonies marred with contradictions

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On the second day of their joint appearance before the Inquiry Commission, the duo continued their testimonies on financial misappropriation.

Both witnesses affirmed the decision surrounding spending at the BsAC as the responsibility of top management – the chairman, the CEO, the finance director and Yaya Ceesay (planner and engineer).

Since Mr Lamin Suso, the former finance director withdrew monies from council’s account which he had claimed were a refund to him for pre-financing council activities, Deputy Lead Counsel Patrick Gomez asked him to provide evidence of activities he pre-financed.

Mr Suso said he had no evidence. However, he said the CEO was aware and should be “honourable enough to say it here”.

Ex-CEO Touray reacted: “I never authorised him to pre-finance any of the Council’s activities. I am not aware of any pre-finance he made.”

The deputy lead counsel also engaged the duo on the D2 million dalasis that the Government of The Gambia remitted to the accounts of the Basse Area Council as subvention on 17 December 2021.

Former CEO Touray said after the council received remittance from the Government of The Gambia, Lamin Suso came to his office asking him to covertly spend the money.

“Lamin Suso came to my office and told me that when they received money at the Brikama Area Council [where he worked], they used to share the money and prepare receipts,” Touray told Commissioners.

He further claimed that he declined Suso’s request to share the money amongst themselves.

Suso reacted to Touray’s allegations, describing them as false. He said what they discussed related to how to settle their liabilities with the banks.

Reacting to further questions by the deputy lead counsel, he testified that the money was meant for development. He further clarified that it was a conditional grant for the rebuilding of an old market in Basse.

Quizzed on the cost of the old market project, he attested it was D2,400,000. He eventually admitted that the money was not spent on the market.

He also stated that the General Council was not aware of the grant from the Government of The Gambia, arguing that they usually informed the Chairman only.

Ex-CEO Touray joined his former colleague to confirm that the then-chairman Foday Danjo was aware of the funds as they discussed it in their management meetings.

“Basically, it was between me and the CEO. We decided how the money was spent,” Lamin Suso testified.

Witness Suso moved on to give his reasons for not spending the money on the market. He said the banks were pressuring the council to repay loans owed to them, and as a result, he and the CEO agreed to use the money to pay the banks while awaiting the car park fees to use for the market.

“Was the car park fees eventually spent on the market?” Lawyer Gomez asked, but Suso said they were not.

Turning to Mr Touray, the deputy lead counsel pronounced: “Mr Touray, you as the CEO failed to ensure that the money was spent on the market project.”

Mr Touray agreed without much hesitation.

Giving his testimony about that D2 million grant or subvention, Mr Touray said Ndabah Krubally withdrew D1, 150,000 and D800,000.

From the D800,000, Ousman Touray said D500,000 was deposited at Vista Bank and D300,000 was deposited at Supersonicz Microfinance. Lamin Suso, at this point, countered the CEO’s claim concerning the D800,000, as he said that Ndabah Krubally deposited Seven Hundred and Sixty-Five Thousand dalasis at Vista Bank for salary payment.

Chairperson Jainaba Bah interrupted to ask both witnesses to provide the Commission with the evidence to substantiate that the said sum was used to pay salaries. They replied in their response that they did not have evidence to prove their claim.

Counsel Patrick Gomez, at this juncture, told the witnesses that the Financial Manual makes provision for the council to have thresholds for spending. Both Lamin Suso and Ousman Touray admitted that they did not comply with the dictates of the Financial Manual.

Testimonies surrounding the signature of Mr Touray were also heard. Mr Ousman Touray accused Lamin Suso of forging his signature. Suso on the other hand claimed that the CEO had different signatures.