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According to Mr. OusmanTouray, the former Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Basse Area Council (BsAC), Chairman Foday Danjo obstructed the Council’s procurement operations, as reported to the Local Government Commission of Inquiry.

Touray acknowledged that the Director of Finance was subordinate to him and required to comply with his directives.

“Did you verify that the Director of Finance fulfilled his obligations?Deputy Lead Counsel Patrick Gomez posed the inquiry.
“I did my absolute best,” responded the witness.

“These issues persisted over time. They maintained their persistence. “These incidents transpired on a daily basis,” stated Counsel Gomez.

Gomez referenced the absence of bank reconciliation, which, as per the auditors, undermines the reliability of financial statements due to the significant likelihood of inaccuracies.

“What excuse will you provide?”Counsel Gomez conducted a Q&A.

“No justification exists,” the witness responded.

“You have not even requested a bank reconciliation in the past month,” Gomez stated.

“Yes,” responded the witness.

“Monthly bank reconciliation is required,” stated attorney Gomez.

“Yes,” responded the witness.

The witness testified, “Accounting for council funds will be impossible.”

Additionally, the witness acknowledged that the Basse Area Council’s asset register is insufficient. The absence of a comprehensive asset inventory, he continued, poses a significant risk because not everything will be accounted for in the Council’s account. Furthermore, he acknowledged that procurement activities lacked an IT policy, training policy, procurement plan, and database.

“A poor recording system was to blame,” the witness explained.

Former CEO Touray stated in the Compliance Review Report for 2020 and 2021 that he, the Finance Director, the Procurement Officer, the Planner and Engineer, and Councilor Sainey Kanuteh comprised the Contracts Committee. The witness stated that the Chairman was an annual attendee of the meeting of the Contracts Committee.

“The Chairman’s presence at the Contracts Committee meetings was inappropriate. You are both incapable of judge and jury. The witness stated, “He [the Chairman] ought to have merely overseen us; consequently, he should not have attended the meetings.”

Counsel Gomez stated that the Chairman used to exert some influence over the Contracts Committee’s decisions.

“Some of our decisions were formerly influenced by the Chairman,” the witness stated.

Concerning procurements, the Commission noted that there were no open tenders for procurements in 2019, 2020, and 2021. The vast majority of procurements were executed via single sourcing, devoid of any competitive bidding processes.

“Why would you allocate funds from the Council to non-competition?”Counsel Gomez inquired.

“It was improper,” stated the witness.

“We are aware that it is inappropriate. You have made the decision to award contracts to whoever you desire via single sourcing. You issue contracts to individuals at your discretion. Why did you consent to that?Counsel Gomez inquired.

“The procurement method was improper,” the witness responded.

“The implication was that you were awarding contracts in exchange for kickbacks as is customary,” Gomez explained to the witness.

The witness stated in opposition that he had not been compensated in the form of gratuities for any Basse Area Council procurement activity.

“Why did no competition occur?””The attorney inquired.

“We did not engage in competition,” responded the witness.

“You gave contracts arbitrarily away.” Counsel Gomez remarked, “It’s no wonder that the Chairman used to attend your Contracts Committee meetings.”

“I concur with your viewpoint,” the former CEO responded.

“Why did you not adhere to the GPPA regulations?” Gomez inquired.

“We did not adhere to it,” the witness continued, adding, “We believed that single sourcing was the appropriate method of procurement.”

The Counsel stated, “Both you and the Chairman were aware of the procurement regulations.”

The witness responded affirmatively, further stating, “It was not deliberate.”

Attorney Gomez requested that the witness furnish evidence to substantiate the claim that their actions were not deliberate, but the witness responded that they did not have any such proof.

The witness stated, “We simply request that the vendors [suppliers] submit their quotations; we do not advertise it.”

The witness stated that the Contracts Committee members were not appointed on the grounds that “the necessary conditions were not met.”

Gomez stated, “The Contracts Committee was an alliance of friends who joined forces to oversee and manage council affairs.”

The witness, however, was in opposition to Counsel.

Gomez stated, “You have been awarding contracts in violation of due process.”

“That is correct. “That is correct,” the witness responded.

The Commission observed that the Basse Area Council awarded contracts to one of the sisters of the former chairman, Foday Danjo, despite the fact that she failed to register her business with the Gambia Public Procurement Authority (GPPA). This is in violation of the law, which prohibits unregistered companies from receiving public contracts due to the risk of non-tax payment.

“That constituted a conflict of interest,” stated the witness.

“Why did you permit yourself to be involved when you were aware that it was unethical?”Counsel Gomez inquired.

“It was improper,” responded the witness.

The Deputy Lead Counsel provided a list of companies to which the Basse Area Council had awarded contracts but which, contrary to legal requirements, had not been duly registered with the GPPA.

“Are you aware of their tax compliance?””Gomez inquired.”

The witness responded, “I do not know.”

According to the GPPA Compliance Report for 2022, no single procurements were subjected to open tendering; rather, they were all executed via single sourcing.

“Our action was not appropriate. “Due process should have been adhered to,” stated the witness.

Former Director of Finance Lamin Suso, according to the Deputy Lead Counsel, identified a flawed system at the Basse Area Council and took advantage of it. Counsel Gomez stated that the Basse Area Council’s issues predate Lamin Suso’s tenure due to their noncompliance with procurement and other regulations.

“That is correct,” the witness responded.

The witness stated that the Internal Audit Directorate’s system audit was initiated subsequent to the general council of Basse Area Council rejecting the report that contained the conclusions and suggestions put forth by the Finance and Audit subcommittee of the council concerning instances of financial misconduct. The Finance Director was intercepting council funds directly from the revenue collectors, according to the System Audit.

According to the witness, the Basse Area Council’s difficulties intensified in 2021 following the arrival of LaminSuso. He recalled that as a subsidy, the Gambia Government had transferred 2,000,000 Dalasi (D2,000,000) to the Basse Area Council. Former CEO Touray stated that he repaid the one hundred thousand dalasi (D100,000) that he received from the sum. One hundred dollars was awarded to former finance director Lamin Suso, and three hundred dollars was given to Ndabah Krubally, the cashier of the area council. Lamin Suso’s testimony that the funds he obtained were a reimbursement for a pre-finance he executed for salary payment was contested by him.

“Upon LaminSuso informing us of his predicament, we extended him a loan of D100,000.” The witness stated that it was not a refund for any pre-financing he had completed.

As the council received a subsidy from the Gambia Government, the witness recalled Lamin Suso urging him to withdraw the funds and distribute them among the members.

“Lamin Suso informed me that the subvention was shared when he was employed by the Brikama Area Council.” He [LaminSuso] used to say that this individual [referring to me] desires nothing [wealth] and that no one else should possess anything [money]. “I declined the notion of contributing to the subvention, which led to this,” the witness explained.

When further questioned as to the reason he donated D100,000 to Lamin Suso, former CEO Touray stated that it was a loan to satisfy his personal obligations.

“You consented,” the attorney stated to the witness.

“Yes,” responded the witness.

“NdabahKrubally received D300,000 that was never accounted for,” stated Counsel Gomez.

According to the witness, that sum was designated to satisfy the Council’s debt to Supersonicz Microfinance. The witness stated that he is unable to corroborate whether the payment was made to the financial institution, but he believes it was made to Supersonicz.

During this time, Jainaba Bah, the chairman, questioned the witness as to whether or not due process was adhered to when the D100,000 loan to Lamin Suso was granted. As stated by former CEO Touray, due process was not adhered to.

The auditors observed that the Basse Area Council obtained loans from various financial institutions in the absence of General Council and Ministry of Regional Government sanction. According to the former CEO, he used to collaborate with the former Chairman (FodayDanjo) and former Finance Director (LaminSuso) when making decisions.

Touray stated that the loans were utilized to pay salaries; however, the witness stated he did not have the requested evidence when questioned. Patrick Gomez, the witness’s attorney, testified that the loans obtained in circumvention of the General Council were unlawfully obtained and did not obligate the Council. The witness stated that the situation was urgent due to the impending salary payment. When prompted to provide a rationale for the assertion, the witness was unable to do so.

The witness was directed by the Chairperson of the Commission to consult the Financial Manual, which contains guidance on procuring loans in the Council’s name. The witness acknowledged that their actions were improper.

“In my opinion, there was no emergency situation,” Counsel Gomez stated.

“You are absolutely correct,” the witness responded.

According to him, the former director of finance (LaminSuso) allegedly withdrew One Hundred and Forty-One Thousand Dalasi (D141,000) from the Vista Bank Brikama Branch in an unauthorized transaction.

The witness explained that the alleged kickbacks paid by Green Vision International to Ndabah Krubally’s account were in the name of corporate social responsibility. He added that Lamin Suso had informed him regarding the Green Vision transfer.

“Lamin Suso approached me and informed me that D300,000 was donated to us by Green Vision,” the witness stated.

It was questioned of the witness how the budget estimate was formulated. He replied that the data they presented was derived from the figures supplied by revenue collectors subsequent to the assessment.

They had anticipated 39 million Dalasi in 2020, but the precise quantity spent was 27 million Dalasi. 12 million dalasi constituted the variance.

“What caused the discrepancy?””The Counsel inquired.”

“The reason for the situation was the uncollected revenue.” “Perhaps also the collected revenue that was not deposited,” the former CEO speculated.

The variance decreased from 13 million Dalasi in 2021 to 14 million Dalasi in 2022. Risks of revenue suppression, corruption, tax evasion, and administrative inefficiency were identified by the auditors.

“In agreement with them [the auditors],” responded the witness.

The witness acknowledged that the preparation of the financial statements for 2021 and 2022 commenced in 2023.

Gomez stated, “It would not accurately reflect the true financial state of the council.”

“Yes, and the auditors concurred with that. “I concur with you,” stated the witness.

The lack of cash book maintenance by the Basse Area Council was identified by the auditors. The witness expressed agreement by producing the phrase “I agree.”

The witness admitted that withdrawals from the Sabi, Gambisara, and Baja Kunda Wards totaling Two Hundred and Twenty Thousand Dalasi (D220,000) were made from the ward development accounts in violation of due process.

The former CEO elaborated on the matter by stating that the funds were intended for ward development, whereas the withdrawals were designated for Council activities.

“These funds were withdrawn at different times to finance the airfare for the chairman and vice chairman,” the witness explained.

Regarding the Baja Kunda Ward, the witness stated that he advised Ward Councilor Omar Garry of the suggestion. The decision to withdraw funds from the Baja Kunda ward account, he further stated, was jointly reached by him and the previous Director of Finance, Lamin Suso.

According to his testimony, the funds were refunded to the ward account via Ndabah Krubally. Seventy-five thousand Dalasi (D75,000) was the sum in question. He stated that the withdrawal from the Sabi Ward was also connected to the Chairman’s travel. One hundred thousand Dalasi (D100,000) was the total quantity. The funds, according to former CEO Touray, were paid to the vendor who supplied the facility with a milling machine. He added that the ward councilor had submitted the payment request to the vendor.

“Why would you employ unauthorized methods to execute withdrawals from the accounts?”The Counsel inquired.”

“The accounts were jointly signed by both of us,” the witness responded.

The witness was queried by Chairperson Jainaba Bah regarding the propriety of using funds designated for ward development to purchase airline tickets.

“No, it was improper,” responded the witness.

The witness stated that he never instructed the former finance director to collect revenue using GTR receipts, and that the revenue collection device was only intended for use by the council. He further stated that this was the reason he proceeded to impounded all the GTR receipts subsequent to the release of the audit report.

According to the witness, the Basse Area Council utilized Innovative Technology’s new revenue collection devices at the “Lumos.” Additionally, the revenue collection devices from 5C Energy were operational, he added. When queried about the distinction, the witness responded that the 5C device is visible from the office dashboard, whereas the remaining Innovative Technology devices were not connected to the office.

An honorarium of forty-five thousand dalasi (D45,000) was presented by the Basse Area Council to the witness, the chairman, and the director of finance.

“It is for retirement,” stated the witness.

“Have you retired?””Gomez inquired.”

“Yes,” responded the witness.

The witness stated that the honorarium they received was utilized as imprest. The witness stated, following question and answer, that the honorarium was used as imprest and that the funds have been retired.

The auditors reported that certain council employees received honoraria without justification. Additionally, the audit report revealed that a subset of the personnel who were granted honorarium stated that they were unaware of the rationale behind their payment.

The witness stated that an honorarium of five thousand dalasi (D5000) was paid to them beginning in 2021.

The sole occasion the witness became aware that his former Finance Director, Lamin Suso, and Finance Manager, Malafi Badjie, were engaged in revenue collection was subsequent to the Basse Area Council’s financial and administrative operations system audit.

The witness stated that he was cognizant of Manku Manneh’s, one of the revenue collectors, assertion that the device entrusted to him had gone missing. He further stated that he was informed of the device’s whereabouts through Manku Manneh, who subsequently admitted to having left it in his residence.

“We were all aware that Manku was in possession of the device, and records at the IT Unit confirmed this,” the witness stated.

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